When I signed up for the Zambezi River and Big Cat Project, I don’t think I realised just how gruelling it would be. It would be a challenge – I always knew that – but even more so in 42 degree heat. The days were long and tiring, there was lots of travelling and lots of information to process.
But I also didn’t realise quite how much wildlife we’d see, how well we’d connect as a group and how much we’d all learn.
|Watch out: giraffe crossing|
|Setting up our tents alongside elephants|
The great thing was, no matter how many wild animals we or they (often by moonlight without our knowledge) came across, they made us feel absolutely safe.
|Championing the CP banner!|
|Finding a lion paw in the wild|
Canoeing was hard work, especially at points in the day when the wind picked up and we’d get carried by the current. We all got very sore thumbs too; the paddles are not kind to your hands! We’d have to use all our combined power in our two- and three-manned canoes to stay within the safe zones of the water, out of harm’s way.
|Spot the elephant!|
The project’s aim is to ensure the future of Africa’s wildlife and one program rehabilitates and reintroduces the offspring of captive-born African lions back into the wild. We fed the lions and also helped with data collection – observing the pride to evaluate whether they were functioning as wild-born lions do. We collected data on a variety of social, territorial and hunting behaviours of the pride – it sounds very easy but it was difficult to not get distracted and keep an eye on which lion was your own when they all look so similar!
|Monitoring lion behaviour; photo by Helena Peck|
On one of the mornings we also visited a school to meet the local children. We played games with them for a while and delivered a lesson, helping them to learn English and encouraging them to talk to us and their peers. Educating the local community on conservation and managing their environment, as well as teaching basic life skills helps the locals to understand the advantages of living alongside and conserving the local wildlife and habitat.
|Playing with schoolchildren|
If you’re thinking about signing up to our next big cat challenge and want to read the stories of all those who took part please visit the group fundraising page here.