Searching for Signs

By: Jacqueline Jobin

Wildlife Works Intern Jacqueline Jobin, is a student from the University of Minnesota in the United States. As part of her time interning with Wildlife Works, she has been observing and learning about each department within the project. Jacqueline spent a day out with the ranger department to get to know more about the project area and the animals within the conservancy.

One of my first days interning with Wildlife Works, I had the opportunity to experience a day in the life of the rangers. At sunrise I jumped in the back of the land cruiser, surrounded by rangers in green uniforms, and watched as the sun slowly peaked through the trees to reveal the conservancy. As the land cruiser whipped through the trail, I caught glimpses of buffalo, warthogs, ostrich, zebra, giraffe, and my personal favorite, African elephants, who were roaming amid the long grasses and Acacia trees.

A glimpse of the African elephant at the conservancy.

I was inspired by the presence of both male and female rangers and loved the inclusivity within the ranger team. A little before noon the rangers spotted a tree covered with vultures. The vehicle slowly came to a stop and everyone hopped out to search the area. I asked one of the rangers, Joseph, what happened that made everyone so eager to leave the land cruiser.  He explained that vultures are a major indicator of potential kill which sometimes leads to signs of poaching incidents. Because of the white splotches from the vultures’ faeces covering the tree, it became obvious they had been there for a few days. Underneath the tree, we discovered hyena prints, a second red flag for a dead animal in the area. After a few minutes of searching, a ranger called out from across the road.

A group of rangers on a patrol

We silently walked through the tall grasses to where the ranger was standing staring at the skeleton of a dead eland. Around the carcass was the leftover footprints of a lion, confirmation that the eland’s death was natural. A little way off we found more tracks of a lion, but these were the tracks of a lion running. Beneath a huge acacia tree, we came upon the place where the eland had been killed and followed the trail of flies to where the lion had dragged its kill. The rangers explained to me that when the lion had its fill, the hyenas and vultures finished off the eland’s remains. 

The remains of the erland which was probably killed by a lion.

I was relieved to know that no snares, traps, or poachers had killed the eland and that its death was just a part of the natural circle of life for wild animals. The rangers told me that this is a part of their normal day, following signs and tracks to recreate the story of an animal’s death. When I asked them how they would have handled the situation if they had seen a poacher, they told me they operate unarmed and would bring the poacher to the police so they could be charged with criminal offenses. 

I enjoyed my day out with the rangers learning about the critical role of wildlife within the conservancy as well as the importance of holding the title of a Wildlife Works ranger.

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