11:00am: I take the research car and go and upload pictures from the cameras. I’m unsettled at this stage because I’m alone. I get to the first camera station. I get out of the car, pick up the stones that lay right next to the car and throw them in to the nearest thickets and wait. At this point I’m standing at the door in the Nakedi’s Ready Position: “if something so much as growls from that thicket, I will dive in to the open door and lock myself in,” I make a mental note.
Nothing growls and nothing moves, so I take the laptop, walk towards the camera and start uploading pictures. Sometimes I find ungulates grazing next to the camera station, and then I get relieved that they probably moved as far away from predators as possible. This should have happened in the early morning or during the night. I don’t rule out the possibility of an unsuccessful hunter from the previous night though. However, the sight of ungulates in the vicinity still puts me at ease. I hope that I will not be seen as a prey when the familiar staple food is around.
3:00pm: It is almost time for the Singita Lodge guests to go on the afternoon drive. I must get out of the concession so I’m not in the way.
3:30pm: I arrive at the lodge, get myself some water and head back to Shishangane (aka Shish).
4:30pm: Arrive at Shish and start sorting leopard droppings of the day and analysing the leopard pictures that were uploaded. I have avoided the lion areas. I’ll check those the following day, only if!
5:00pm: Play some football at Shish.
7:15pm: I read a scientific paper. When it stops making sense (calculus!), I get grumpy and read a novel. Sometimes I go and have a beer or two with the guys at the bar. After a beer or two I try again. Now it is the beer and me against calculus and stats…. sometimes I win. On such an evening I go to bed with a smile on my face!
10:00pm: Snooze… with a smile on my face.
Joining AWF in 2007, Nakedi is the latest addition to AWF's team of species researchers in Africa. Working in the Limpopo region, where he's from, Nakedi's studying the great cats to shape conservation strategies that will benefit communities he's known all his life. Looking at Nakedi's focus areas as a zoologist – Cytogenetics, Molecular Biology, and Geometric Morphometrics – it's easy to see he is serious about conservation. Leopards as a species especially interested him because they are both powerful and elusive – making it a challenge to study and protect them.
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