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Sign at the main entrance to campus.

7. Life at the Southern African Wildlife College
    September 19, 2018

Last week we moved to the Southern African Wildlife College where I’m working on some projects in exchange for room and board. The setting is stunning. The campus is located within wildlife habitat abutting Kruger National Park with no fences between the park and the land in our greater backyard! The only barrier between us and the full complement of African carnivores is an eight-and-a-half-foot-tall one-and-a-half-mile-long perimeter fence. Fortunately, the fence looks pretty sturdy.

Campus to the left, African wilderness to the right.

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On the left, to the dining hall;
on the right, walkway between buildings.

We’re living in staff housing that faces north through the perimeter fence out towards the African plains. Each morning and evening we do some bird and wildlife viewing through our binocs. While drinking our morning coffee or evening tea we’ve spotted blue wildebeest, plains zebra, giraffe, black-backed jackal, elephant, warthog, kudu, and white rhino.


The view from our backyard . . .

. . . and some of what we've seen.





We also get our fair share of close-up backyard friends, mostly of the feathered variety.

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Natal Spurfowl, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Grey Go-away-bird, African Green Pigeon,
Southern Red-billed Hornbill, Magpie Shrike.

Early in the morning I caught these spurfowl coming down from
their roost on our roof. Now we know what that rustling sound is!

The college is not a formal university, but rather provides a variety of training programs, including wildlife guiding, land protection management (for practicing guides and land managers from other parts of Africa and from around the world), sustainable rural development, wildlife research, and anti-poaching training for field rangers. The latter includes a second campus 1 km away with a firing range, a canine unit for tracking poachers, and an airstrip for helicopters and planes that take off to do wildlife research or to follow up on poacher sightings.

One of the planes used for data collection
and tracking of poachers. Photo from: C. Torres Master's Thesis.

Wind sock and air strip just outside the
western edge of the fence.

Rangers in training.
Photo from:

One of the projects I’m helping with is a study designed to determine whether hunting pressure from some of the nearby game reserves is having an effect on the age structure or size of horns of male buffalo. I’m also helping to convert a tree identification guide to a smartphone friendly format.

Data can be collected from aerial photos of Cape Buffalo.
Image from E. Walker Master's Thesis.

The Bushveld Candelabra Euphorbia - one of the
nearly 100 species in the tree guide I'm working on.

Another project in the applied learning unit where I’m based is aimed at developing a simple and effective wastewater treatment system that can be used in local villages. The big challenge at the moment is figuring out how to control the mosquitos that are using the tanks for breeding. Fortunately, at the moment, those breeding in the tanks are not the Anopheles mosquitos that carry malaria, but rather members of the subfamily Culicinae. Hopefully the team will get this problem solved before the Anopheles start breeding in a few weeks!

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The applied learning building where I work. Closeup shows
construction using local sand and only 6% concrete. The building is
well insulated and stays cool (yesterday it was 106 deg. F outside!).

Collecting a sample of larvae from
the wastewater treatment tanks.

A sample of mosquito larvae; so far these small samples
combined have included tens of thousands of larvae. . .

Spotting scope view of an adult
in the family Culicinae
(fortunately not Anophelinae!);
there are many of these on campus,
and, in our house!

On Friday, the campus community will be celebrating "rhino day." Events will include a debate about the pros and cons of legalizing the harvest of rhino horns, and, a cultural heritage event with food, music, and dance from countries around Africa. Needless to say, we’re looking forward to the festivities! That day will likely become the focus of a blog in the near future, but next I’ll be sharing some pictures and videos from our first trip over this past weekend to Kruger National Park. Stay tuned . . .

Rhinoceros skull.

Elephant jaw and teeth.

Elephant skull.

African sunrise.