South Africa Diaries: Day 10

It was another early morning start this morning, and went straight out into the bush to start our projects. We decided to do our first survey on the road leading away from the pan near the buffalo enclosure. We used a tape measure to mark out the first 50m from it, and recorded all of the spoor and scat that we saw. We had a guide book to help us identify and scat and spoor, and also had the help of a park ranger. She is more experienced in scat and spoor identification than us, and was there to help us to verify that we were identifying things correctly.

We then collected data on a 50m transect on a game trail that ran parallel to the road, followed by two more roads with their parallel game trails next to the dam. When we had finished, we used a feather duster to clear any spoor on the tracks, because we plan on going back tomorrow to collect more data from the same areas so only want fresh spoor.

We finished at about 1 o’clock and were pleased with the range of results that we got. It was really hot by this point, and we had a 20 minute walk back to camp. After dinner, we went outside and did a bit of star gazing. The remote location of our camp meant that we had one of the best views of our Milky Way galaxy in the whole world!

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Species Of The Day: Warthog

The warthog, Phacochoerus africanus, is a member of the pig family that inhabits much of sub-Saharan Africa. They are omnivores, but mostly graze on grasses and use their snouts to dig for roots. When threatened, they can run up to 30mph, and a group of warthogs is called a sounder. These groups consist of adult females with their young, and adult males live solitary or in bachelor groups, only joining females when they are in oestrous.

Warthogs were found to be able to recognise a call from a predator that had been locally extinct for many years. The scientists played recording of lion calls in an area where they are now extinct, as well as a grey wolf call, which is an alien species, and unfamiliar music to act as a control. Stronger behavioural responses were given to the lion calls, indicating that the warthogs, who would never have been exposed to lions before in their generation, had the ability to retain predator recognition.

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