Rick is currently in Africa to see elephants. Read his previous blog, Botswana: Still Tracking Elephants.
May 6, 2009 (Wednesday)
Today we woke up before sunrise to gather some gear and head out to see if we could find the lions we had been hearing the night before. The air was cool and thick with moisture, dew had settled across the Chobe National Park, and it was just a gorgeous scene as we drove away from camp in the early twilight. Many bird species were starting in with their morning calls and scattered groups of impala were grazing along the way.
We spent a couple of hours driving into areas where Dr. Mike Chase of Elephants Without Borders (EWB) was certain we would find the lions. But as the morning light became stronger and it became closer to the time we were due back at camp, it seemed the lions had left the area. We drove around for a bit longer but had no luck.
We started to head back to camp and within a couple of kilometers we spotted fresh lion tracks. We knew they were fresh because we were on the same trail going back to camp that we had taken coming from camp, and the footprints were over our tire tracks! The footprints were going in the direction of camp, though we were still plenty far away. I found it ironic that we initially were going one way while they went the other way.
As we continued down the trail we came across a lone male baboon that paid no attention to us. He was on alert and looked to be very interested in what was in the area beyond the large plants and shrubs to the south of the road. Just a bit further we spotted two more baboons in a dead tree scanning the area just like we were. It seemed we were not the only ones looking for the lions.
We continued tracking the lions as best we could but then lost the trail once the footprints moved off of the soft dirt and into the high grasses and plants. We looked around for a little bit longer and then headed back to camp. The odds are they were right by us several times, but with the thick plants and bushes in the area we could not see them. However, I am confident that they saw us.
We had breakfast back at camp and then it was time to pack up and say goodbye to our overnights in the field. Next stop for us was the lodge in Kasane, where we are scheduled to be for the next few nights before heading back home to San Diego.
The rest of the day was spent getting settled at the lodge and then catching up with Mike and Kelly Landen at the EWB office. They showed us an elephant corridor that runs through farmlands connecting open land to the river. They also showed us other elephant trails that cut through properties around town. I thought it was pretty cool that the long dirt driveway for EWB was also part of a corridor for the elephants to travel down to the river.
To support our elephant conservation work in Africa and learn more, visit the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy.
Rick Schwartz is the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey Ambassador.