Knowsley Safari Keeper Leah Drury is back with week 2 of her Western Derby Eland conservation trip to Senegal! Last week, Leah faced the boiling heats of Niokolo Koba national park, the only place in the world where this critically endangered animal still thrives in the wild. The resident eland had given birth during the rainy season, and it was Leah’s job to help identify the animals living within Bandia Reserve; she even got to sink her teeth into some traditional Senegalese cuisine!
If you missed Week 1 of Leah’s trip to Senegal, read more here.
During the last of the rainy season, a few weeks before we arrived, the electric perimeter fence to the main reserve shorted out. Unfortunately, this led to some fence damage courtesy of the rhino on the reserve and a breeding group of the Western Derby Eland that got mixed with a bachelor herd. This was a concern for us, as Annie (our geneticist) explained to me, the male in the breeding group had been specifically chosen to mate with these females due to their bloodlines (i.e. their parents) being least related. Doing this helps to ensure that the herd stays healthy and capable to breed for the future.
With the perimeter fence now repaired, it’s time to re-sort the Eland into their groups. We work alongside the reserves feeding team Mousa, Omar, Ser, Mohammed and Isaac, who feed and water the Eland daily. Over the morning we managed to encourage the group towards the gate of the enclosure. Once they had settled and become accustomed to our proximity, we used dried Acacia pods, the Elands’ favourite food, to lure the individuals that we wanted through the gate.
This takes a lot of team work – a couple of us have to stand on top of the truck a little distance away so as not to scare off the flighty Eland, and identify who is who in the group. Then we have to communicate back and forth quietly to each other whether the animal approaching the gate should be let through or not! It’s at times like this I miss the radios we use to communicate when herding animals at Knowsley! As we found out, the Eland can become suspicious and nervous of us very quickly and so it was important to remain patient and not push our luck!
After three days of hard work in the hot sun, we managed to close the gate behind an Eland named Marabout, the desired male for the breeding herd in that enclosure. A wave of relief passed over us all and we sat on the truck for a well needed drink of water, and a team photo of course! Good luck Marabout, we look forward to recording and identifying your calves next year!