Friday, 2 November 2012

My first bite

The volunteers all begin work at 8am, so I set my alarm for 7am, at which point I found myself in the awkward position of not wanting to get out of bed in case I woke the tentmates, but also not wanting to be late for my first day of volunteering. As it happened, I got there in plenty of time, and got involved with helping to clean and rake the cub enclosures, as well as clearing up some of the larger "gifts" left by the giraffes and zebras who roam the visitor area of the park at night.

We has about half an hour spare once we had finished cleaning, so spent the time playing with the cubs. They love dangly things - shoelaces are a firm favourite, as are the bottoms of trousers, loose long hair, camera straps, necklaces...

Trouser bottoms are a firm favourite (these are not my legs)
I got a bit of a scare whilst in with the cubs. Chloe, the largest of the cubs still in these enclosures, aged 6 months, took a liking to my laces. As I backed away, trying to stay calm, she picked up the pace and lunged at my stomach, trying to bite me. Although she didn't manage to get her teeth through my clothes (at this young age their claws do a lot more damage than their teeth ever could), I still got a bit scratched. Lesson learned; if a lion wants your laces, you give the lion your laces. Hell, you give the lion your firstborn if it so wishes.

My first volunteer shift was taking tickets from customers at the entrance to Cubworld. It was fairly straightforward work and a met a few more volunteers - including more Brazilians.

Myself and Rebecca, the Australian volunteer who also arrived yesterday, managed to squeeze in a game drive between shifts. It took just over an hour, driving first through the zebra and springbok area of the park, before visiting the six "camps" - four lion camps with one pride living in each, plus one cheetah camp and one wild dog camp.

You do NOT want to be waking him up
We were lucky that the food truck drove through whilst we were in the first camp, as this woke the lions up, making for some good photos.
It's hard work being a lion!
  The lions roam freely in their camps, meaning that the only thing between them and the visitors is the caged side of the trucks - a scary yet exciting thought. As well as regular lions, the park is home to several white lions, a very rare species.
A white lion- what a dude!
 The highlight of the game drive was the sight of a lioness carrying her very young cubs by their necks.

In the cheetah camp, we witnessed a bit of drama. One of the two cheetahs crossed the road in front of a car, stopping halfway and looking at the windscreen as if to say "What? You expect me to move?" before launching itself onto the roof of the car, as if to prove a point. Cue a tense few minutes for the people inside the car, who knew the cheetah was above them but could not see it. Add to this a safari truck full of tourists taking photos and laughing at them, and I imagine it was quite uncomfortable for them. The cheetah on the other hand, looked right at home, giving off a sense of regality as he lorded over his usual stomping ground from his new vantage point.

Eventually the driver edged forward slightly and the cheetah hopped off as quickly as he had hopped on.

My next shift was in the giraffe station, selling giraffe food to visitors who wanted to feed them. In a quiet moment I managed to go up to the feeding platform myself and stroke the giraffe's face. Turns out they're a lot bristlier than expected of such a graceful animal. The feeding area is surrounded by ostriches who lurk below, begging for morsels of food dropped by the giraffe. It's surprising how freely the animals are allowed to roam - I can't imagine anything of the sort in England, but the African lifestyle is so much more laid back.

Previous entry ("Arriving at the Lion Park")
Next entry ("Cheetah walk")

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