Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Volunteer Updates

Week 11 volunteers: Nicola Austin, Paula Amis, Christiane Lehmann, Penny Goff, Paul Foley, Sarita Vyas, Kerry Foley, Laura Noll, Quentin Fetiveau and Kira Voss. 

"My time at Neuras was fantastic! I love the fact that the work done by Matt and Kate with us volunteers actually makes a difference. The best activity was going out into the bush to track Lightning (a GPS collared leopard) and her cub "Storm". With the help of daily GPS coordinates  and a radio receiver, we followed her signal to locate her. This normally ended up with the signal indicating we were right on top of her and yet we never saw her as she would always stealthily move away. Not seeing her is not the end of the world as we were able to find her recent kills to establish what she has been hunting (usually springbok). On one occasion after recent rains we were able to find some amazingly clear tracks from both Lightning and Storm confirming that they are still together. 
                                                    A track or 'spoor' belonging to Lightning.

However, the best tracking experience came when we were investigating another springbok kill site where we actually saw the cub, sitting only 100m away from us! The cub noticed us notice him/her and with a small growl ran over the hill before anyone could get their cameras out. We followed and picked up Lightning's signal down in the valley. We could not see the cub and within minutes the signal vanished. It was amazing and the one year old cub looked in excellent condition. 

I also learned about trapping and collaring carnivores for monitoring of their movements. I loved the fact that Matt and Kate encouraged us all to suggest suitable places for new cage and camera trap  locations with the final decision normally being  a joint effort from everyone. It added to the excitement of doing the daily trap checks as you never knew what would be in there when you arrived.  

I loved every minute of it - Thank you Matt and Kate!!"
Paula Amis - volunteer for a record breaking 5 weeks!

Week 12 volunteers: Millie Tupper, Paula Finnuala Chiobhain, Quentin Fetiveau, Maria Tabacco, Douglass Badder, Igor Rosetti, Arthur Fernandes, Tezz Colombini and Poala Bogoinelli.

 Week 13 volunteers: Paula Amis, Sarita Vyas, Rochelle Vyas and Janet Burton.

"Really great stay! This is my first time visiting Namibia and I can definitely say that i will be returning to Neuras very very soon!  Everyone here made me feel extremely welcome and taught me so much in the week that I was here for. Really don't want to leave but I'll be planning my trip back again soon. Thanks so much to everyone at Neuras, you all do a fantastic job."

Rochelle Vyas

"My experience at Neuras was fantastic! I loved the variety of activities arranged for us. I was especially encouraged to test my endurance in climbing the dunes, walking long distances and setting trap cages which have made me realise I have more potential than I realised! Kate and Matt were a huge reason for making my time here so enjoyable....they were so kind and always willing to go the extra mile to help. THANK YOU! I will return for sure."

Sarita Vyas.

Week 14 volunteers: Alistair White, Claire Pearce, Tim Taylor, Joanne Johnson, John Parnell, Susan Parnell, Harry Andrews, Lisa Greber and Georgina Foley-Brickley.

"Big cats, sand dunes, wine and pizza! What more could you ask for, a great week away in a beautiful oasis. Awesome staff making sure all volunteers and guests have an amazing trip. With sundowners and swimming in a natural pool. Don't miss the opportunity to come and see this amazing landscape and meet great people."

Tim Taylor.

"Wine, wildlife and wonderful company  - what better way to sum up one week at Neuras? The setting is nothing short of idyllic; an oasis in the desert providing stunning views, cool fountains and an incredible array of bird life. The research is endlessly fascinating, from tracking large carnivores to setting and checking camera traps and trap cages. It all feels consistently necessary and engaging. Special mention must be made of of the staff, who are not only expertly knowledgable of the local flora and fauna but are also tirelessly helpful, ensuring a constant stream of information, conversation and excellent food. 

All in all, an excellent concept wonderfully executed.

Harry Andrews.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Volunteer Update - Week Ten

Week Ten Volunteers: Yvonne Wemmenhove, Paula Amis, Christiane Lehmann, Yasin Oezkaymer, Chantel Kampijion, Emma Kingston and Steve Irving.

"My week at Neuras was amazing. I loved the hiking and of course the Namib Carnivore Conservation Centre where we fed the cheetahs.  
The thing I liked most was climbing the Naukluft Mountain. Going up was very hard and was a big struggle for me. When we, after an hour finally got to the top we saw a huge heard of Oryx and a group of Kudu.  It was a very nice surprise after the big climb.
When we went down we got followed by some baboons - so that made us get down faster! Overall I really enjoyed my week!"

Chantel Kampijion.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Volunteer Update - Week Nine

Week Nine volunteers: Eirin Barkhall, Paula Amis, Mark Amis, Millie Tuper, Christiane Lehmann and Yasin Oezkaymer.

"I've had a brilliant week at Neuras this week. We tracked Lightning the leopard, checked camera traps, did game counts and so much more!I loved the challenge of climbing "Big Daddy" at Sossusvlei and even more running down it! 
My favourite thing would have to be feeding and seeing all the cheetahs at the Namib Carnivore Conservation Centre (NCCC), because you really got to see them up close and it was brilliant when they played with the Elephant we made for them :) "
Milie Tupper

"Neuras provides opportunities both to work hands on with research and carnivores as well as experience the nature of Namibia. This variation in activities have made my stay here a lovely time. My favourite thing must be when drove to the NCCC and fed the cheetahs that live in the 500ha 'soft-release' camp. To see cheetahs that close feeding surely is a once in a lifetime experience, and there are not many places where such an experience would be possible. 
Climbing (and running down) "Big Daddy" was also a highlight and I have really enjoyed the long dinners with the other volunteers and our co-ordinators, with great cooking by Martha and the rest of the kitchen ladies." 
Eirin Barkhall

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Volunteer Update - Week Eight

Week Eight volunteers: Annete Alt, Heike Vachelli, Sylvain Kolly, Barbara Wipf, Jorge Krausse, Christophe Cygan, Manon Cygan, Johanna Jacobsson, Antonia Bernau and Caroline Jones.

Its been another interesting week here at Neuras, not only because of the monitoring of recently collared cheetah "Einstein", hikes to active hyena caves and the sight of the NCCC cheetahs tearing apart a rather unusual enrichment item but also because of the impossible to ignore presence of three of our, shall i say, younger minded volunteers!
             A Pink and yellow "Cow" meeting its fate at the Namib Carnivore Conservation Centre.

The trouble started last week when journeys to locations became filled with the out of tune sounds of classic and not-so classic songs being mercilessly butchered. 'Wheel's on the bus', Spice Girls' 'Wannabe' you name it they sung it.  I will also never be able to listen to Wille Nelson's "On the road again" without a shiver going down my spine! Several of the culprits left us last week but three remained, including one who was going though an identity crisis and believed themselves to be Spiderman.
Early in the week I had to drive out and rescue the troublesome trio after they phoned in after becoming lost on route to check one of our trap cages. After driving to the cage and back and not finding them I was surprised to find them on the road a few hundred metres away from Neuras HQ. They had been gone for over an hour and I was very perplexed. I became doubly perplexed when they gave me the reason for there large diversion from the correct path.......scary cows, which they described as Orc like creatures. Naturally, I of course ridiculed them for this turn of events and provided them the next morning with a helpful poster explaining the differences between Orcs and Cows:

Instead of being grateful for this advice the trio decided to throw it in my face and cruelly attacked me:

Luckily for them, Kate was  on hand to prevent me from carrying out revenge! So With all that explained the following will make a bit more sense:

"Dear Matt and Kate, 

Thank you again for everything, you made our stay worth while, even when there were scary cows surrounding us. No matter what the activity was there was always fun and laughter involved.

Thank you Matt for saving us 100m from home and thank you for coping with our weird imagination every single day. Thank you Kate for joining us in our Rummy game addiction even though you won nearly every time! and thank you joining in our crazy and childish games.  

We can't believe how close but so far away we got to Lightning. It was worth every climbed mountain, every stumble over a rock and every bruise from the green machine. Matt we still can't believe  how you coped with us, especially when everyone else went to Sossusvlei and you were stuck with us for 24 hours alone!

We hope the camera trap at the cave we had to climb up to and move three times will give you amazing photos of Spiderman and the Spotted Hyena. Thank you both for the amazing pizzas, they were delicious even though one had a hole. We will always remember your explanation of the differences between an Orc and a cow although they were completely wrong! 

We are all expecting an invitation to your wedding next year as your live band:

                         "If you wanna be my lover, you gotto get with my  friend
                                    Make it last forever.....friendship never ends!!! " 

Lots of love, Antonia, Caroline and Spiderman (Johanna).

Sorry girls, you may come to the wedding but I will insist on tapping your mouths shut with duct tape!!! Miss you really :)