Each of your field work days starts after breakfast and ends in time to shower before evening meal. We'll all leave Umkhumbi lodge together each morning for the 10 minute drive to Ukuwela.
There's a ton of work to be done on the land but before you dive in we'll give you a one day course on bush skills, conservation concerns and anti-poaching techniques. After your first day you'll have a deeper understanding of why you're here and what you'll be doing.
The work can be quite strenuous, especially in the African sun, so breaks should be taken often. Always remember that you are working on a wild piece of land and although unlikely, you may come very close to an animal. During your induction we will give you clear instructions on how to act in such instances. We do not have elephants, rhinos, lions, or buffalo on Ukuwela. They're the ones you don't want to meet. You will, however, have the chance to see all these animals on your days off when we go to neighboring reserves.
Even the best laid plans in Africa tend to change month to month. It can be quite frustrating to Westerners, but after a while you learn to go with the flow. To this end we cannot guarantee the projects that you will be performing, but we're sure they won't change too much. Here are some of the tasks:
Checking animal camera traps
Camera traps are remotely activated cameras that are equipped with motion sensors to snap a pic when something moves past. We have a number of these on the land to get photos of the shy and elusive animals. Camera trapping is a method for capturing wild animals on film when researchers are not present, and has been used in ecological research for decades.
Now that Ukuwela is protected we need to analyze what species are here and how abundant they are. We also need to gain an understanding of the trees, plants and grasses that the animals eat so we know the ‘carrying capacity’ of the reserve.
Patrolling with the Ukuwela Rangers
It’s important to make sure Ukuwela remains secure. While very rare, there have been two instances of people coming onto our reserve to poach antelope with wire snares. This is called bush meat poaching as their intent is to use the animals for food. You’ll join our rangers on one of their twice-daily perimeter patrols to check that all is safe and secure. Don’t worry, there’s no chance of bumping into any unwanted guests. They only break in at night.
Removing alien plants species
Like every other piece of land in the area alien plant species have taken hold. Removing these allows for the growth of indigenous vegetation, which is not only important to the natural order, it is a vital food source for animals as small as insects and as large as giraffes and a driver of biodiversity.
Removing Agricultural Debris
Ukuwela was once a farm, and like messy neighbors, they left behind some old human-made remnants. Aside from being unsightly it is a danger if ingested by all animals large and small. You'll help return Ukuwela to a pristine habitat by removing the trash by hand.
Removing Old Fencing
Ukuwela was once subdivided and there are old fences that need to be removed now that we own the whole piece. You'll help dismantle and remove these wood post and wire fences.