As you may be aware, some of our collared hyenas and leopards are being rather rude and giving us the slip. We need to download data from their collars, and to do this we need to get our handheld receiver within a few kilometres of the collared animal at a time when its collar is active. We have tried hiking and driving, but in the mountainous terrain it really helps to get airborne, as signals from collars can be blocked by the hills. We were lucky enough to get a flight in a helicopter earlier this week, and yesterday it was time to try again from the air, this time from a microlight!
As you may have guessed, a microlight is a very small, light aircraft. Its a posh word for a wing with a propellor and a seat strapped underneath it. Chuck, a former Air Force pilot, is very kindly offering his piloting services at very good rates to wildlife biologists in the area. Microlights aren’t exactly Boeing 747s, so flying such a tiny aircraft in the windy mountains and taking off and landing on bumpy airstrips in the bush can be very challenging, but it was nothing that Chuck and Skubie couldn’t handle.
Yesterday Sam just went up with Chuck for a quick recce. Everything went fine, although we didn’t pick up any signals from collared animals. We will try more extensively later, at a time of day when more of the collars are transmitting signals and the animals are more active. Those crafty little carnivores are running out of places to hide…
The new project 4×4 made its maiden voyage, a 2 hour drive down & up the mountain to a suitable airstrip on a nearby property.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, It’s…Skubie!
Sam & Chuck strapped in & ready for take-off!
Sam got some cracking views of mountains…
…and the back of Chuck’s head!
Time to land. The airstrip looks much more fun than runways at OR Tambo or Heathrow.