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Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015

When I sent my daughter off with the admonition to make the most of the opportunity she had, little did I know how enthusiastically she would take my advice. The poster presentation that her supervisor let her give at a wildlife conference in Durban was even better than the kind of opportunity I had thought she might get. What she actually did included joining the disease monitoring of the buffalo as only the beginning of her adventures. My first message from Africa was that, from the airport where she landed she was detouring directly to a Kruger Park buffalo conservation site before heading for where I thought she would be going. My second message was that, on the way, a man asked the fellow driving the female researchers on their way to the buffalo site how much he would take for one of the women. After all, he had a whole car-full. Surely at least one would be available. How about Diana? Message three was that she really wanted to do the blood draws so she did get the job. She got to hop in with the buffalo as they succumbed to sedation, stuck the needle in an ear, and speed back to the fence before each donor woke up. And, by the way, she also was allowed up on one of the flights with the aerial “gunner” who was “shooting” each buffalo with the tranquilizer. Only after all that did she finally head for the village project in Zululand. At the village in the area of Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve, the oldest game park in Africa, Diana’s job was to log locations everywhere wildlife and livestock came together. This would yield frequencies as well as maps of interactions with potential to pass infections from wildlife to humans via their stock. Being an inventive sort, Diana figured that she could cover more ground if she marked locations and then went back the next day to take the whole series of position readings. It was a splendid idea until a pair of village boys knocked on her door in the evening with a basket of the rocks she had whitewashed to be markers. “We are worried that you forgot these, so we are returning them to you.” After that, the main excitement in the village was being awakened early, early in the morning by a terrible racket. A hyena was dragging a box of water buffalo blood samples away from the research stores. Fortunately, it was the box of backup samples. Diana made a point of helping as needed. When the teacher at a local school was out sick, Diana took over both the geography and English classes. Drawing the continents in the dirt because the blackboard was broken may have given an interesting impression of the world, but that may have been no less interesting than students’ reaction to the book Diana was able to get from the local bookseller for her lessons to the English class: Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” While Diana’s supervisor was off on various trips meeting with her Pretoria professor or replacing equipment, Diana also had time to go farther afield. While in Pretoria, she decided to take a language class so that she could better communicate. Having signed up for a Zulu class to be taught in English, she discovered that she would have to make do with a Zulu class taught in Afrikaans. Most of the students were more comfortable in Afrikaans, so Diana got outvoted. In Pretoria, Diana endeared herself to her host family by solving minor crises like making the daughter a pair of fairy wings when the girl announced over breakfast that teacher had told class to wear costumes to school the next day. Diana helped mom by taking samples from the naked mole rats the mother was studying to a project site in Namibia in the vicinity of Etosha National Park. Hearing that my daughter was camped just south of Angola after exchanging those samples for cheetah blood to take back to the university in Pretoria was another surprise. But the most surprising call I got from my daughter during her trip was the one about her rental car. After driving the first hundred miles, she finally ran out of inventive alternatives when needing to back up in a tight spot. You haven’t lived until you get a call from your daughter in Africa asking how to put her car into reverse. Fortunately, my husband was home to field that one. Having driven foreign cars, he was able to suggest putting the manual gear shift lever over and up instead of over and down. Off she went again. PHOTO: African Cape Buffalo in Texas like those Diana sampled in Africa (photo by Christian Mungall courtesy of 777 Ranch, Texas). Baobab, the signature tree of Africa. 98 BISBEE’S CONSERVATION JOURNAL Q2 • 2015


Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015
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