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  • Writer's pictureORC Intern

Curiosity, big and small...

Hello! I´m Tomás Azevedo, a veterinary student from Portugal. As of late I have been learning more about wildlife veterinary care, as well as conservation medicine. You can imagine my excitement when I was hooked up with Ongava Research Centre to become an intern for one month. This would be my first real African experience!

Needless to say, I was captivated from the moment I set foot at Ongava, a feeling that grew day by day. I was tasked with helping with one of the activities of the “Endemism and Conservation in the South-Western Highlands of Africa” project. This concerned capturing and individually identifying rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis welwitchia). From the various methods discussed, we decided that different combinations of coloured beads attached with fishing line to the ear would be the best way to recognise each individual at distance. We then searched for the best knot to secure these earrings. This was to be followed by observations of the wild hyraxes to better understand their preferred locations, feeding habits and social behaviour, and to record their calls so that these could be compared to the vocal communications of other hyrax colonies on and off Ongava. However, marking turned out to be impossible, but field observations and audio recordings by Aglaé Thieffry from France went ahead (stay tuned for more info on that topic soon).

1.Hyrax ear with beads; 2. Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis welwitchia); 3. Termite mound soil sampling; 4. Termite mound fungal garden.

Besides that, I participated in a variety of other field work activities. One concerned the study of termite mounds and their effect on nearby ground to find out why there are neat “fairy circles” of bare soil around the mounds. For example, do the termites affect the availability of nutrients in the soil around them? I also helped map vegetation across Ongava. All of this consolidated the value of understanding details at the smaller scale to strengthen our view of the larger scale processes!

While this was only one month of experience, it filled my head with new thoughts and concepts, simultaneously showing me the path to my newfound love for investigation and research.

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