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Life as a Volunteer

SOUTH AFRICA | Thursday, 31 January 2013 | Views [597] | Comments [1]

Today I learned some interesting facts about Vervet Monkeys by tagging along on part of a guided tour. For a start they have been around for about 65 million years, slightly longer than man! I mentioned previously that their DNA is around 92% similar to ours. We share several features: eyelashes and eyebrows; the same long nasal passage;  colour, 3D vision; 5 digit hands and feet complete with nails and even fingerprints.  I have observed how similar the babies are to their human counterparts: sucking their fingers while going to sleep and cuddling up – some screaming and becoming very clingy when you try to put them down. In amongst all the baby Vervets, there is one little baboon, a veritable ugly duckling, but sadly without the option of growing into a beautiful swan. Amy, as she has been named, is incredibly clumsy especially alongside the monkeys. She seems to fall more often and when she does, she cries until she gets the attention she wants. It is often thought that these monkeys only live to a maximum age of 20. In fact they can live up to 30 years.  Sadly their lives are often cut short by farmers who claim they destroy their crops. In fact monkeys like a varied diet and those farmers that work with conservationalists, such as Bambelela, have been able to create a symbiotic relationship and thereby prevent this species from becoming extinct.

Thanks to a certain advert, most English people can identify a Meerkat but do you know why they have black circles around their eyes? They are hunted by birds of prey who fly into attack their prey with the sun behind them. These black circles act a kind of pair of sunglasses by absorbing the sunlight and thereby enabling the watchman Meerkat to spot the danger and alert the rest of the group.

Today during out lunch break a small group of us decided to trek up one of the hills nearby. It was around midday so there was no-one making themselves visible. As you look out, you may catch a glimpse of warthog or zebra, and I am told, occasionally buck. There are leopard somewhere in the vicinity although to see them would be quite an event. Hyena may be heard but rarely seen whilst bush pig are another species that may be seen occasionally.  Sometimes it’s easy to forget the dangers that the bush holds, it can look so peaceful.  The only thing I dread seeing is a snake of any kind. I know they’re not slimy but as far as I’m concerned they are cold, calculating and just unnecessary. I’m sure there will be those of you who disagree, and please feel free to do so. My phobia has remained intact despite the best of efforts of some of my Kenyan friends.

The chores for the day are now complete – I have raked out old vegetables and monkey droppings & replaced with fresh vegetables (they will replace the droppings!) in the Handicap enclosure, played with and fed the babies, helped out in the kitchen, tagged onto part of a tour, climbed a big hill – just to get to the top and amused some of the Afrikaans-speaking folk with my very basic and pretty much totally forgotten Afrikaans. I am now watching the dusk reach its hand of calm serenity over the valley. The evening sounds are peaceful and reassuring, the sky has a pink haze that touches the clouds drifting over the hilltops and the air is still and cool. Night falls quickly in Africa and the internet hotspot near to the main house will soon be teeming with insects (there is only a tiled floor and thatched roof at our ‘dining table’. For those of you who may be wondering what the food is like, well its pretty good. The only thing missing is fruit suitable for human consumption – I am craving real mango and papaya.

Tomorrow Sue (in charge of volunteers and tour guide) is taking Kristen (Canadian), Chris (a Met Police Officer) and I to Zebula Reserve for a day of elephant interaction. I am SO excited! I really must get photos up and working. Need more free time, but not too much.

Tags: africa, bush walking, chores, dna, hyena, meerkats, safari, vervet monkeys, volunteer




These blogs are making me smile and smile each day!!
You are living that amazing dream and keeping us all updated with how you are along the way!!
Hope the elephants are as amazing as they sound!!
Can't wait to see more pics!! :)
take care and missing you xxx

  Jen Jan 31, 2013 8:48 PM

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