Monday, August 26, 2013

Randomness: Mother's new puppy

Long time, no blog and I can't promise it'll go back to being anymore regular any time soon. Anyways, just thought I'd share some pics and badly shot video of my mum's new dachshund puppy. She's called Poppy and she is most adorable.

So many sleepy photos. She's so much easier to photograph when she's sleeping.

Hurray for low quality video of playful puppy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Randomness: South Africa trip

I've just spent two weeks with my mother volunteering at International Primate Rescue, a primate sanctuary in South Africa - links at end of post. Here follows my ramblings.

Day 0 - Leaving the UK
To Doncaster. Feeling slightly ill - think it's excitement. Hope so. Don't want to be ill. Also have cold. Ick.

Now Manchester. Terminal 1 is dead. My luggage had to go through the fragile bit - weird. Now have a bucket of peppermint tea. Yum. Because luggage has gone through fragile, am paranoid that it won't go all the way to Jo'burg.

Day 1 - Arrival

The volunteer house

Not much happening today. Turns out I had nothing to worry about re. luggage making it to Jo'burg. Gone so far out the other side of being tired that I'm fully awake again. Spent the day reading, because we've not been added to the rota for today.

Chino the Capuchin playing with a flip-flop

Day 2 - Introductions

Started the day with top-ups of porridge for the marmosets, then supplements. Some of them refused to take it, some loved it. Then an hour of obs on poor old Sussie the Rhesus macaque, who may or may not have a tumour. Poor thing.

Mango the capuchin monkey stole Mum's sunglasses. We were being shown round, doing porridge top-ups, when he reached through the mesh and grabbed them. Of course, he then decided to bash them against a branch. Fortunately, someone managed to retrieve them and they've now been superglued back together. Looking forward to seeing the travel insurance claim for that one - "a monkey stole my sunglasses".

Popped over to "next door" at lunch. Gorgeously sunny. Booked a trip to Kruger National Park - can't wait. Then onto more work, this time patching up the mesh on Jethro & Anuska's (capuchins) enclosure. Jethro is attention seeking, but Anuska, his mum, ignores it.

The gorgeous blue sky from "next door"
After that, gum arabic for the marmosets as a sort of enrichment. Om nom nom. And then pellets, which happens every day at 4pm. Basically, small red pellets for the marmosets. Cleans their teeth and gives you a chance to check they're OK. Some take them out of the cup, but some you can hand feed, which is amazing. So many marmosets. Adorable, but some are a bit temperamental.

Then to the supermarket. Stock up. Nom.

Day 3 - (not so) Controlled Burns

First up, an hour sitting in with Rupert the Fennec Fox kit. Very cute, but spent most of the time sleeping. And I have no photos of him, which is a shame. Unfortunately, the IPR website doesn't have any photos either.

Then Susie obs again - she decided she didn't like me.

Then topping up the little pellet bottles for the marmosets. Some of them were a bit impatient and tried to pinch the pellets out of the tub before we even had chance to pour them into the bottles.

Lunch. Then brief watching of "controlled" fire burn. Didn't seem all that controlled to me and it burnt in patches, which isn't going to act as a very good firebreak. It also got quite close to the Mona monkeys' enclosure. Papi, one of the Monas, was not impressed. Came over to the fence to peer at us. Very cute.

Then top-ups for the "bigs". Salvi (capuchin) is lovely. Brief visit back to Rupert who was a bit upset by the fire. Poor thing. Settled down soon enough once someone was in the enclosure with him. In fact, he went to sleep pretty much as soon as I sat down next to his crate.

After that, more Susie obs. She still wasn't interested in eating, so Spartacus (also a Rhesus macaque), her enclosure mate, got her biscuit.

Then pellets again. Nom nom nom.

Tea of pasta. Om nom. Meeting re. Kruger. Yay!! Red wine accident over Rod, resulting in red wine all over one of the chairs, the floor and the table. Then on return from meeting, red wine on Lydia, who promptly dashed off shouting "How do I do the salt trick?!". Fortunately, I think the salt trick worked and the stain came off her trousers.

Day 4 - To Kruger! 6am. Uneventful 6+ hour drive down, save for a loss of direction around Nelspruit (courtesy of sat nav).

Paul Kruger
When we finally got to the park through the Paul Kruger Gate we had an awesome drive down to the camp at Pretoriuskop. Saw some Kudu and Impala with half an hour, then an elephant. Then an elephant family with a youngster. Most adorable.

Female Kudu
First Elephant
One of a herd of Elephant
Also, zebra. Cute baby zebra, of which I don't seem to have any photos. Gah.

Burchell's Zebra
Then more antelope. And more. Then just before we got to camp, a group of warthogs. Made an involuntary remark about dressing in drag and doing the hula. Seemed to go over everyone's heads. (If it's gone over yours, see HERE)

Male Kudu
The camp is lovely. Nice little roundhouse type things. Had a great evening with everyone. Gorgeous BBQ courtesy of Chris, our driver/guide. Max, another of the volunteers, got a bit drunk, which was quite funny. Especially when he claimed the neighbouring hut's fire and then got really apologetic when they came back. Very sweet.

All in all, an excellent day. Early start tomorrow though...

Day 5 - The Day of Giraffe. And Hippo. And more Giraffe.

First spot of the day - impala and some kudu. We have rapidly reached the point at which we no longer stop when we see impala. There are pretty much more impala in the park than everything else put together.

Then an elephant. Just the one, if I remember right. After than, our first giraffe. Awesomesauce. Soon after, a brown snake-eagle. Got some great pics.

South African Giraffe
Brown Snake-Eagle
Then more impala. Then probably some more impala. Then hippos, first of the Big Five. Lots of hippos. With a baby. Very cool. Then monkeys of the blue bollocked variety. Technically, vervet monkeys, but blue-bollocked monkey sounds so much better to me. They were closely followed by warthogs and more impala.

Hippo Family
Vervet Monkey
Warthog family
A random Sharpe's Grysbok. Cute.

Sharpe's Grysbok
More giraffe. This being the day of giraffe.

South African Giraffe

Yellow billed hornbill. Saw quite a few of those. Ostrich - two males and a female. Hiding, therefore very poor photos.

Male Ostrich
Yellow Billed Hornbill
Common duiker. Tiny & adorable. Just the one.

Heffalump on the river bank, giraffe on the other side. Turned out to be quite a few giraffe on the road to Lower Sabie camp for lunch.

Buffalo on bank at Lower Sabie, so now we've seen two of the Big Five. Also hippo further down. Crocodile on the lakeside, which no one else seemed to spot.

Some sort of stork-type bird, yet to be ID'd.

Stork... thing...
Young elephant. Charged the van. See pic.

Happy elephant
Charging elephant
Group of giraffe.

Wildebeest and zebra under tree. Long ways off and hidden by bushes. Bad pic, but pic all the same.

Wildebeest, I promise
Far off rhino - now up to three of the Big Five. Not doing bad there. Turns out to be three rhino and I then remember the suspicious looking rock I saw under a tree not too long back, which might have been a rhino now I think about it.

Hornbill and guinea fowl at the camp. Tempted to cook the guinea fowl, especially when one of them hopped obligingly onto the BBQ grill.

Sunset drive with Pat the ranger. Impala being the first thing we saw, of course. Lovely sunset. Buffalo and kudu around the rocks. Followed by a pair of klipspringer, which are a sort of little antelope. No decent photos of them - the light was going weird and I wasn't entirely sure where I was meant to be looking.

OWL, of the spotted eagle variety. I love owls. They are awesome. I think I made this one jump with the flash.

Chameleon. How the hell Pat managed to spot it, we have no idea. Apparently they glow slightly in the dark, but still...

Baboons on a big rock with babies. Apparently they sleep up there because the lions and whatnot can't get up there. Most excellent.

More owls, then a common duiker spotted by Max.

Pair of rhino by the road. Awful photos. Observe:

Buffalo. Lots of buffalo. Moo.

Tea. Yum. Sleep. Finally.

Day 6 - The Day of Rhino

First spot of the day - rhino! In the road. Five of them. Most amazing sight. Most of them were sleepy and the one alert one didn't like the van - we kept having to reverse back down the road. Eventually they moved off into the bush, but we must have got at least 5 minutes watching them.

Next, a male waterbuck. Didn't see much, but got a few pics, mainly of its rear end.

Then more giraffe. Probably more impala.

More rhino. With baby. Again, most awesome.

Then a big male warthog. "They call me Mister Pig."

Giraffe in the middle of the road.

Berg en Dal camp
Lone elephant. More impala. Then leaving.

Random mini game reserve at the services in Middelburg

Day 7 - Um...

Marmosets. Susie obs. More marmosets. Y'know, the usual.

Tracey leaving tomorrow, so I joined her taking pics of the monkeys, then a trip to next door's bar in the evening. Max thrashed Rod at pool, apparently not for the first time.

Roxy the Fennec Fox
Papi the diabetic Mona Monkey
One of the Barbary Macaques
Tracey stroking Ouma the Crab-Eating Macaque
One of the many Marmosets

Day 8 - Fire

Bigs. Top ups and the like.

In the evening there was a bonfire, at least in part for Katie's, one of the short term volunteers, birthday. Great evening. Attempted to get some starlight shots. Some of them have turned out all right.

Max: Lord of the Flame

Woke up in the middle of the night to discover that Noir the cat was in my bed. How she got in, I have no idea - I had a top bunk. She refused to get out. Most frustrating.

Day 9 - Sad times and stinky boxes

Marmosets in the morning - cleaning of bed boxes. These are just converted cool boxes filled with blankets. Cleaning them is easy enough, however much they may smell. Getting them in and out of the enclosures, on the other hand, is not. Especially when you consider that I'm not all that tall and the boxes go right in the top of the enclosures. Getting the marmosets shut off so you can get in the enclosures is much easier - just offer them marshmallow, they go mad for it.

Unfortunately, they had to euthanise Susie today. We had a little funeral for her, with Sue, the sanctuary's founder, planting an apple tree on the grave. She's been buried where they're going to build a new enclosure for 6 crab-eating macaques arriving in a few months.

Day 10 - The day off of illness

Illness. Fortunately, today was my scheduled day off anyway, so it hasn't caused any problems with the rota. Finished off The Painted Man, which was recommended to me by Fenna, one of the long-term volunteers. An excellent book. Then started on Terry Pratchett's Sourcery. Also cool.

My sunglasses have vanished...

Lydia's leaving party. Basically just party nibbles and random conversation, but lovely nonetheless.

Day 11 - Cute Capuchins

Chopping of monkey food. Sticky fingers. Smells nice though.

Then raking paths. No real reason, but I think they're running out of jobs for us to do. The capuchins were very friendly, especially after we let them have some of the sticks out of the wheelbarrow.

Julio, one of the sanctuary's dogs, is adorable. I think I'll steal him. He's currently watching Max eating, trying to look appealing. Max is resisting admirably.

Also found my sunglasses. Yay.

Day 12 - Portable Branches

Bigs today, but first morning feed at 5am. Stalked by Noir. At least she wasn't on my bed.

Onto bigs - cleaning out the Barbary macaques. They're adorable. Put some sort of plant in for them - lucine or something? One of them half opened to the slide while we were in they, then gently shut it again when Torie, one of the long-termers, told him off. Most amazing.

Then fixing Kosie & Saartjie the marmosets' food platform with another long termer, Alli. Torie attempted to rescue a frog from a hole. One of the marmosets tried to pee on me.

Then lunch. Yum. Watched the capuchins playing - their discovery of the slide was excellently cute. Then meeting and house clean.

Monkey time. Went in with the squirrel monkeys. Had one of them on my head. Eating a peanut. They loved Mum - seemed to be using her as a portable branch. Got some great photos.

Sunset pics.

Day 13 - Last Day of Work

Start with a trip up to the bigs, although for the life of me I can't remember why - probably to check on porridge bowls. Also supplements for the lower capuchins (Mango and co). They were so lovely - very keen to take their little balls of sticky porridge, unlike the marmosets.

Then chopping. Yeah.

After lunch, back up to bigs. Fruit for the Barbaries - I think they're my new favourites. They're so gentle, considering they're probably the biggest monkeys at the sanctuary. Then no work left, so photos of the monkeys before pellets.

Black Cat bars are yummy - peanutty goodness. Have also acquired an IPR t-shirt. Yay.

Bowls. Not much to be said about bowls. Mm. Basically just removing all the feeding dishes from the marmoset enclosures and washing them up.

Day 14 - Leaving

Not much to say. Nice little lie in, then packing, then a few last photos of the monkeys. Attempted to get some of Bushman, who is a right little bugger of a marmoset and doesn't like anyone. Got a few, but he wouldn't sit still.
Bushman of finger mauling fame
Then to the airport. Had a late pickup because there'd been some miscommunication about times somewhere. Still got to the airport in Jo'burg in plenty of time - i.e. before check in even opened. Spent most of the rest of my Rand in duty free - nice little bracelet.

Then flights. Ugh. Lack of sleep and onto:

Day 15

...Then train. More lack of sleep. Then going so far out the other side of being tired, being awake again. Yay.

Finally, crash. Amazing trip.

If you've managed to read all the way to the end of this, please check out International Primate Rescue - they are an amazing organisation, giving "hope for homeless primates". If you can afford it, volunteering there is a great option, but you can also donate to them through paypal HERE. They're receiving 6 new Crab-Eating Macaques in the next few months, so anything you can give them would be appreciated.