Working at Cawston
One piece of advice I can give you when coming to Cawston is take part in everything. Every single job I did there taught me something and yes it can be difficult but once you leave the satisfaction of knowing you completed such a vast amount of tasks will just give you a feeling of accomplishment.
When you start receiving jobs at Cawston it can be intimidating, especially if you’re not sure what is going on or where anything is, but you are surrounded by people that have done this for years so you can always find help. I took part in work that I never thought I would ever do such as road clearing, fence repairs and learning how to use an axe as well as building bush toilets for a temporary camp to be used by Quest students. Just working in the bush on a daily basis was amazing and you will see something new in the bush everyday guaranteed.
After a hard day at work I found there is nothing better than sundowners in Chris’s secret spot and seeing amazing views as the beautiful African sunset is in front with you.
My Projects at Zimbabwe
Currently I am a third year Nature Conservation student through UNISA. I came to Cawston to complete the practical side of my study and learnt a lot more than I expected to! Some of the projects I completed there were: carnivore studies using camera traps and spoor count surveys, animal population analysis using road strip count, hunting, grass identification, burning fire breaks, alien plant removal and vegetation mapping.
My time at Cawston started with the carnivore study using camera traps. The one issue this created for me was that I didn’t know the property at all and I had to set up camera traps all over the farm! Not knowing where I was at any point made it difficult for me to mark down where the traps where, luckily I had Frank, the Head Game Scout, helping me and he knows the farm like the back of his hand.
This project was running for 30 days and required me to check the cameras once a week. I lost my first camera within the first week from a Hyena deciding to take it off the tree and after looking for it over a period of a month I still couldn’t locate it and through the rest of the project I lost 2 more. Once I had collected the cameras I had to go through all the photos from 30 days and this included a lot of pictures with grass blowing in the wind. I caught a lot of predators on the cameras mainly brown hyena, civets, genets, and leopard including one that was only 400 meters away from camp!
Another project I was involved in was vegetation mapping, which required me to find certain points on the farm where pictures and a transact had been done of the vegetation there in 2012. So now we need to compare how the vegetation has changed in the last few years. Many of the sites had been done and I was completing the project. It took place over a week; it required a lot of walking in the bush and using a GPS to get to the vegetation points. Over the last couple of days Sam joined me on the far side of the farm to get a couple more vegetation points. At one site we had walked about a kilometre in and just got to the point when the GPS died and between Sam and I we didn’t know the exact way back, but just that we should head west, so we did but somehow this turned into a three hour walk through the bush trying to find the cruiser!
Many of the projects I did never worked entirely according to plan, as they never do in Africa, but it creates stories and teaches you how to adapt. These projects taught me many skills and gave me memories and experiences I will never forget!