Ranger Day’s, these are days where we go out and about on the back of a ute, with the rangers to do what ever is needed to be done on that day.
We certainly travelled in style………. the back of the ute has a couple of dirty, old foam mattresses, (covered in who knows what!) where we have the privilege of sitting, whilst being driven, often on unsealed roads. I did feel for anyone with back troubles, because it really wasn’t a comfortable way to travel. I felt like one of the women from the land army during the war! But in saying that, it was fun, something we wouldn’t do at home!
Travelling in style……..
Our first errand of the day was to collect a dead nyala and baby, she had been found by one of the rangers earlier that morning, she died during the night whilst giving birth, the baby had also died.
So we collected the bodies and returned to the animals enclosures where the baby nyala was fed to one of the hyenas and the mother was fed to three lions. Sad, but that is mother natures way and the lions and other animals need to eat.
Lions feeding on a dead nyala
At Ukutula, there are various different age groups of lions, the cubs, the devils, the gremlins, walking lions and prides, they gradually move up through the stages as they get older.
The devils are the next stage cubs, from around 3 months to about 6 months, these are kept in another enclosure and as a volunteer you can still interact with them, but advised to enter in pairs, a couple of the volunteer chalets were also in this enclosure. Guests/tour groups can visit these, but only as part of an organised tour, with guides or volunteers with them, young children aren’t allowed in.
The older of these cubs are by now, quite big, about the size of a boxer dog, they are pretty heavy and have large paws, with very sharp claws and their mouths are home to some very large and sharp teeth!
Today, they were being rehomed temporarily, whilst their present enclosure was being upgraded and being made even more secure! The smaller of the devils were easier to move, they were just picked up and carried to their new temporary home, with the 6 month olds, not so easy!
So how do you move 6 month old lion cubs? You put them into a large cat box of course!
In you go Shawny…
And as is the same with domestic cats, lion cubs go into the cat box willingly…….well if anyone has a cat, they know that last comment wasn’t true!
Domestic cats aren’t easy to put into cat boxes and it is the same for lion cubs. So Jnr and Ben, were armed with dead baby chickens, playing with Shawny as you would a cat and eventually Shawny couldn’t resist the lure of the dead chick and placed two front paws in to the box and then gradually crept in and slam the door was shut, boy, did he let his feelings known about that, he was growling and banging against the door (which I have to say wasn’t very strong against his weight) trying to sharpen his claws on some unsuspecting volunteer, if they were close by!
Four of us carried the heavy cat box to the ute and then he was transported to his new home, as he was a bigger cub, he was moving into the home of the gremlins, cubs about 6 months to a year or so.
The cat box was opened and all the other gremlin cubs crowded around, eager to meet him, but Shawny decided that the cat box was now his new best friend and he didn’t want to leave it!
Shawny was eventually tipped out and he was accepted into the group quite happily.
The next one was harder to get in and even harder was the third one, so by the time it was Holly’s turn, it was decided to dart her, so as not to cause her distress, she was laid out in the back of the ute with some of the volunteers and transported to her new home which as she was six months old was to be with the gremlins, she wasn’t placed with the other cubs until she had come around properly.
After lunch we headed out with a box trailer full of veggies, this was dumped in a huge pile, then we spread it around, the ostriches searching for any bits of carrot they could find.
After the trailer was unloaded we moved just a few metres away and watched….. slowly out from the bushes came giraffe, more ostriches, and various different deer and guinea fowl, ready to pick through the fresh veggies we had left for them. Zebras usually come and eat as well, but today they were being elusive.
Unloading the veggies
Spreading the veggies
Thanks for the food
Slowly they come
On arrival back at the centre, we learned of two new additions, a 4 week old caracal and a few day old serval, so naturally we went to visit them, the caracal belonged to the chef Franco, the serval was being looked after by Gill at night as it was still too tiny.
The caracal ended up with two names, Franco named her Monkey and the volunteers named her Pete, but I think the jury was out on that one, because Franco wasn’t really happy with either name, Pete was cute and such a handful, quite tiny compared to the cubs, but she had so much personality.
Caracal cubs are quite kitten like in their behaviour and she was very delicate compared to the hefty cubs.
Pete the caracal
After dinner, our first South African storm started, but unfortunately it was all noise, none of the much needed rain, we did however end up with a powercut which lasted 24 hours, the generator was switched on, only for a short while, during the night it was switched off, too noisy, it didn’t matter, we were tired anyway.
Day 3, Ranger Day will be tomorrow.