What another exciting day in Africa ! I am at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, only 15 km south of GABS- Gaborone, in Botswana. www.mokolodi.com My host is a fellow Lancastrian, Brian Jones who arrived here as a volunteer in the Cheetah protection programme five years ago and is now helping to run and promote this splendid wildlife sanctuary.
A few weeks ago it hosted the Royal Princes, William and Harry, along with about 100 press including TV crews from the BBC, ITV, Sky News. Photos of their highnesses with the Cheetahs, and with Harry with a large snake around his neck, made instant world wide news. We are on an afternoon trail ride in an open truck with about 10 seats and THATO, the driver and park ranger, who stops whenever we want to give us time for photo opportunities and to answer questions.
First we encounter some Impalas. they have a an M on their rear ends and are nicknames 'McDonalds', because they provide lions with fast food!! ha! ha!. Lots of Warthogs which are one of my favourites. They are Africa's cleaners and will eat about any rubbish. They have these tusks and warts. There are lots of Ostriches to see. The males are black and huge, the females grey. They are very fast and curious about onlookers and we can get up close. Next are a group of Zebras, with their individual stripes. The females have wider ones than the males.
At a waterhole with lots of interesting birds we watch two Hippopotamus taking a cool bath. They are oblivious to our gazes. The birds include Egyptian geese and on the ground some grouse like Franklin birds. In the trees some huge Baboons, that as we approach climb down and run away amongst the many Giraffes. There are some huge old ones.They have big hearts, in order to pump blood to their heads. Pregnancies last 340 days and the babies can weigh 100 kg at birth. Then we come across some White Rhinos and their young. A baby was born recently but we don't see it. Their horns are made of compound hair and they were slaughtered by hunters. There are no black rhinos in the park. They usually have their young trail behind them because they are found in thicker bush, while the white Rhinos have their babies travl in front.
Kudos are next and are very large, much bigger than I had thought, and tower above all the other game including the may Impalas. There are night rides when some of the creatures are picked out by spotlights, such as the Aardvark who sleep during the day. We are in the dry season so animals are easier to spot and frequent the waterholes more often for refreshment. Over 50 species of large mammals here and 300 species of birds. We see some Hornbills in the trees, made famous in The Lion King, and they are near the Cheetah enclosure.
They are an endangeroured species, but there are more all over Botswana than most African countries due to the conservation drive. We look at the two residents, brothers age 14 called DUMA and LETOTSE. They were rescued at 3 weeks old after a rancher had shot their mother. They are fed daily and are about 4 years older than the life expectancy in the wild due to a good diet. There are a number of large Termite mounds,which face to the west to keep cool in the mornings. The queen lays up to 30,000 eggs a day and lives to about 18, when she dies and is eaten. Mokolodi also has Rhino tracking, horse back safaris, bush brais and star gazing when there is no moon(including tonight)'
The sanctuary cares for injured animals that are brought in to patch up and there is also a reptile park, small lodges for families, a backpackers and camping area, and accommodation for school parties bring in a varied clientel of about 35,000 annually. All the buildings have thatched roofs and there is a quality restaurant and a gift shop. You can become a member and receive the excellent magazine that Brian co-edits. www.moloki.com. The latest was hot off the press the day I was there. A WONDERFUL DAY IN THE BUSH.