13 November 2018

South Africa Study Tour

By Philip Orrell

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Lorraine Bell, Programme Leader in Animal Management, reports on this year’s Academic Study Tour to South Africa:

Excited Animal Management students arrived at Heathrow airport on the 3rd June, eagerly awaiting their long flight to Johannesburg.

Upon arrival the following morning, our guide met us to make the long drive to our first destination: Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal. For the next two days, students were taken on walks down to the estuary region of this beautiful coastline to learn about fish trapping, a sustainable, conservation-friendly method carried out by the Maputu people to feed their families and make a few Rand for provisions. A boat trip to the 4 lakes region followed, to walk through mangrove swamps, finding an unusual range of species endemic to the area.

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Next morning, we headed north to Somkhanda game reserve, staying for the next eight nights. Students had guided walks through the low veldt, observing behaviour of a wide diversity of species, including painted dogs, elephants, blacked-backed jackals, and a variety of antelope, bird and insect species.

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They undertook vegetation surveys of trees favoured by elephants, placed camera traps to identify leopard population densities and used telemetry equipment to track elephants and lions released onto the reserve in 2017. A day was also spent at Hluhluwe National Park, observing animal behaviour and learning about conservation and management of the park.

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Next stop was the FreeMe KZN Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Howick, to take part in bird mist netting, identification and ringing, with some students involved in releasing rehabilitated mousebirds.

They then observed the dissection, by the local wildlife vet, of a vervet monkey who had died of natural causes, offering a chance to demonstrate their excellent anatomy and physiology knowledge. Next was a lecture and practical handling session on snakes endemic to Southern Africa - not for the faint-hearted!

So much was learnt on this trip that complimented the academic journey of our undergraduates. They were able to put into practice knowledge that they had learnt through their degree courses and the experience - not just of the trip content, but also the cultural aspects - was invaluable and supported Greenwich University’s graduate attributes. The trip runs each year in June. We look forward to 2019 for another unforgettable, educational experience.