Well, so much for the students being eager to get back to civilization! No one wanted to leave, and a few even wanted to stage a sit-in!
Gone were their fears, and nightwatch (the mere thought of which had sent shivers down each and every spine in the group) was something to be relished and looked forward to! So much so in fact, that Johannes didn’t sleep at all the first because he had not heard any animals sounds on his nightwatch. He just had to hear them all!
Read the Clouddog nightwatch diary.
As part of the environmental awareness course, each of our student groups experiences and assists in the skinning and dissection of an animal – usually an impala. The reason behind this is that it further reinforces to the students that there are many different forms of conservation, and that sometimes the animals that you work to protect will over-populate an area if not managed. In other words leaving them in their large numbers will damage the ecosystem overtime till it is not fit for any animal.
It sounds gory at first suggestion and without fail everyone will cringe at the thought and yet when presented with the opportunity will end up with their hands covered in blood (and occasionally, some up to the elbow), the Clouddog students were no exception to this. Indeed it was the quiet ones in the group who dived in to disembowel and skin with relish! I hasten to add the dissection is not glamourised, it is overseen by a professional and the students learn about both the positioning and function of each of the organs within the body.
The impala dissection is not just about bush skills and conservation however. In the UK and the US e.t.c. people have become very uneducated about food. Many children do not even realise that chips are made of potatoes – never mind knowing that potatoes are vegetable, or even that they grow in the ground. This experience makes children see food in a new light, they don’t just take for granted that it appears in the shops – they now understand where it comes from and how it is produced. Some students find that the impala dissection element of the program also gives them a new accomplishment, this is because the Impala is not just an educational tool, but also dinner. Many of our students will have never had to take part in preparing a microwave dinner never mind seeing the transformation from animal to dinner.
It is always hard to explain why this part of the course is a necessary and fulfilling one for the students. There is something about it that gives you a renewed respect for the animals whilst having a humbling effect. It really is something that you need to experience before you can understand the importance and relevance of it.
All of Tommy’s teaching paid off and as the students remembered to walk in silence and observe the tracks on the ground they were fortunate enough to spot Cheetah tracks. Working as a team with all eyes and ears working as one, the group were able to track the Cheetahs to the very spot they were sitting. It is very rare to see Cheetah (even rarer than seeing Leopard) and yet laying there in front of the group as they broke through the bush and out into the open were TWO Cheetahs. Despite being wild these Cheetah obviously didn’t feel threatened by the group as they shot them a mere cursory glance and carried on dozing in the sunshine.
We couldn’t of course leave them without a proper bush night out, one where your shovel, matches and white gold (toilet paper) are now classed as luxury items. Don’t get me wrong, they still had their rollmats, sleeping bags, and even blankets for company as they slept around the campfire near a dam – Hippopotamus and Giraffe walking within metres of them.
They were all too eager to get into their warm sleeping bags for bedtime, grumbling of course when it was time to disengage from their little pockets of warmth for nightwatch. Bigger grumbles however were to come in the morning as each student buried their heads further and further into their blanket cocoons as they hide from the rising sun. William the lead guide merely grinned as he broke into song and dance delighting the students with such Disney classics as “Hakuna Matata” and “The Morning Report”. Which sounds all very lovely, until you realise he was singing the songs very loudly over the head end of each sleeping bag until the occupant was begging for mercy!
I would love to be able to inform you at this point that our leaders were offering backing vocals and dancing to accompany William on his quest – however I have a sneaking suspicion that they too were snuggled up to their blankets – with the exception of Tommy who stopped feeding his iced Cappuccino addiction to join in!