In order for a farmer to own the game on his farm Namibian law requires the farm to be surrounded by a high game fence; otherwise the game belongs to the government. As soon as the farm is fenced, the game has to be managed to prevent numbers getting out of hand and the farm stripped of vegetation. There are a number of related issues such as human predator conflict with the nearby township, rabies in the kudu population, management of predators on the farm. Also you would prefer the leopards to eat cheap animals like warthog and springbok rather than expensive roan or sables.
So the farmer, Ulf approached Biosphere Expeditions and asked for help in building reliable statistics of both predators and prey as well as gather data for some other scientists with studies on the farm. In addition to owning the farm, Ulf is a veterinarian with a clinic in the township and has a game translocation business. So he sees many sides of the game farming and hunting worlds as well as dealing with disease in game, cattle and household pets.
The Biosphere Expeditions model is to make a grant to support the scientific study and a loan to build the infrastructure to house 12 paying volunteers and an expedition leader with the loan being repaid through housing and feeding the volunteers. BE are also sponsored by Land Rover as part of their Fragile Earth programme by loaning and maintaining 4 Defenders (2 double-cab pickups, a single-cab pickup and a station wagon).
The accommodation was originally intended to be "rustic" but Ulf decided to construct 10 safari style tents on concrete bases each with two single beds and storage, as well as a flush toilet and gas powered shower.
The central "lapa" is a magnificent construction of trees, thatch, concrete and stone with kitchen, offices for the scientists, storage for Biosphere's equipment and a cooler for the beer.
In addition to Ulf there are three field scientists and it is their data we are collecting on leopards, brown hyena and rabies in kudu. The tools used are box traps, camera traps, tracking, waterhole observation, searching for carcasses, game counts (on foot and in vehicles) and telemetry with collared animals (one female leopard so far).
The volunteers arrive twelve at a time for a two week period (a "slot"). I was in the first slot which mostly sees what works for the volunteers and what doesn't and we were led by Matthias Hammer, cofounder of Biosphere Expeditions. The next slots will be more settled and are more likely to see and capture predators. The assembly point is a German style pension in Klein Windhoek called Casa Piccolo, a conveniently short distance from Joe's beerhouse.
Edited by JohnR, 11 October 2010 - 01:34 PM.