On the 21st of February 2012 I started my 5 month internship at ADHS, and it turned out to be the most amazing 5 months! My internship was on the interaction between zebras, impalas and giraffes who encounter humans during game drives, horseback riding and walking expeditions.
The goal was to get an impression of how close you could get to the animals during these activities without disturbing them!
I started with making a research plan, writing down what I wanted to do and gathering information about the animals. Traci and Glen were a really good help, giving me ideas and information. After finishing my research plan, the fun part could start!
During game drives with Glen we searched for zebras, impalas and giraffes on different places in the reserve. When we found one of the species we either drove up to the animals slowly or I got out of the car and approached the animal on foot. In both situations we kept track of the distance between me and the animal, and of the behavior of the animal. When the animal suddenly looked up or ran away, I wrote down the distance that was between me and the animal at that point. We also went on a few walking trails with Glen, but because we couldn’t cover a lot of ground while walking we didn’t see many of the animals I needed. Because of this reason I got out of the car during game drives and approached the animals on foot.
The third activity was on horseback. At least once a week we went on a trail with the horses, during these trails we also searched for my animals. When we found one of the species I rode towards them and one of my fellow students wrote down all the information. It was a lot of fun to do, standing so close (within 5 meter) to a giraffe while being on a horse is amazing. After 5 months I had made a diagram for the three species which showed the comfort, alert and flight distances of the animals. I also compared the species, for instance why do zebras run away earlier than giraffes and why are impalas more alert than zebras.
During my 5 months at ADHS I didn’t just worked on my research. Traci taught me so many things about working with horses. My favorite thing to do while riding was always jumping, but at my riding school back in the Netherlands I never got the chance to really jump.
Thanks to Traci I learned how to jump 1 meter and jump courses that I thought I could never do when I came at ADHS. Besides the horses I learned a lot about the wildlife, conservation and the nature in SA thanks to Glen.
I can’t wait to go back and see all the wonderful people I met, my favorite horse Solar Flare, and to spending more time in the South-African bush.
Written by Patty (Netherlands)