In our 214th Week in Pictures, we mentioned how trackers Jerry Hambana and Rob Hletswayo had tracked an aardvark back to what appeared to be its den. Diggings were all over the place, and upon visiting the area that afternoon I had to concur that there was probably no better spot to deploy a camera trap in the hope of photographing this elusive beast.
In TWIP 214 I mentioned that I have never actually seen a live aardvark, but I knew that should the camera trap be succesful, my hopes would be regalvanized and the deep south of Londolozi would be a great place to start the search.
After a week of waiting, allowing time for the camera trap to do its thing, Head Trainer Kate Imrie along with trainee ranger James Souchon went down to recover the pictures. Nervous anticipation was peaking as they brought the memory card to the computers. We were all hopeful, but fearful that our hopes would be dashed.
A few titters were heard as we clicked through the first few photos which showed James setting up the trap, but we could see in the preview window that the first black and white picture was approaching, and something had triggered the trap… would it be an aardvark?
We were all on the edge of our seats when this photo came up:
The screams of victory were deafening! Everyone was cheering, high fives were flying, and I’m pretty sure I saw James shed a tear. An aardvark, for all the world to see… well, for only the camera trap to see, but at least the creature was there. It actually exists! Just when I was about to lump it in with the Loch Ness Monster or an English football team World Cup victory, it revealed itself. Since I started at Londolozi only two have been seen in the flesh, and now we know where the real activity is, those of us who are still unable to tick a sighting can plan some night-time forays into the area in the (potentially forlorn) hope of maybe catching a glimpse of one.
Hope rekindled, is how I can best describe the feeling of seeing the picture of the beast.
So where to next?
I’m sure a couple of night excursions into the area. A full moon, a quiet night, sitting in silence… waiting for the tell-tale rustling of an aardvark emerging from its burrow. The short grass length of this season tells heavily in our favour, but knowing how an aardvark can literally dig its way to freedom, I’m not going to be holding my breath that an individual emerges from the same burrow we know it’s hiding in. It is quite possible that such a secretive animal, knowing something is waiting for it on the outside, will simply excavate an alternate exit.
Will I ever get to see one? I don’t know. All I know is I’m suddenly really excited to try…