[Reporting from the Congo Heartland]
We had clear skies and a cool temperature as we pushed our two giant wooden canoes (pirogues) off the bank into the Maringa River. The crowd that had gathered to watch us pack now waved and shouted, wishing us bon voyage.
30 minutes after baiting the leopard traps, and having been reassured that they would be safe from lions, we got a call from Matthew Harding (Head guide). Steve Faulconbridge (Conservation officer) had seen two lionesses get in to the last cage and get trapped!
A while back I wrote about the progress being made on the bonobo research and conservation center in our Congo Heartland. I'm joining a 15 person expedition organized by Jef Dupain, director of the Heartland, to visit the site, check on construction as it nears completion, install a VSAT internet connection, and prepare some media buzz for its opening.
The next day (October 31), John Varty (JV), Andy Coetzee, Francois Botha, Hendri and I went out to bait the cages.
JV is famous for his work with big cats and his tiger project down in the Karoo. Andy has more than twenty years of experience working with wildlife and has also been in the army. Francois and Hendri are cameramen who will be filming the events for National Geographic Live, which will be airing live in 166 countries worldwide from Sunday November 9th until Saturday November 15th.
Day 1 (October 30th)
At 07:00, Johan Malan of the Game Capture Unit from South African National Parks Board (SANParks), together with three assistants, brought four cage traps to the Singita Concession. The cage traps would be used to capture two leopards, a male and a female, for collaring. Thomas Ramabulana, the section ranger from this area allowed four of his staff to come and help. In total, there were nine of us. Aeron and Francois also tagged along.