Monday, June 23, 2014

More Pictures of African Animals

I wanted to post some more of the animals that we saw when we went to Kruger Park for the rhino rescue. We couldn't photograph them all of course but Frank tried to keep track of all of the things we saw--21 different kinds of birds and 31 mammals. It's pretty amazing to see creatures in the wild that you've only seen in zoos or in National Geographic magazines!
For this picture I photoshopped the giraffes onto a shot of the sunset I took about the same time.
Kudus have beautiful twisted horns; we saw quite a few of these
This Steenbock is very tiny; less that two feet tall. 
Pumba and his friend; he didn't introduce us. There is quite a size difference between the males and females.
There were so many beautiful birds, but they are difficult to get a good shot of. This one is a African Grey Hornbill.
And some creatures are beautiful wherever they are found on the globe. 
 Water buffalo--they are very seldom seen alone so since this guy was all by himself, our guide said that he has probably passed his useful breeding years and been expelled from the group. 
This bird is gorgeous, but hard to tell from the shot. The name is pretty too--it's a Lilac-breasted Roller.
 The Bushbuck is similar to the Kudu, but notice the curved back horns and the "target" around his rump.
 We saw lots of zebras; many had babies.
 This is a slim mongoose, but the picture has some debris in that makes him look like he has a white tail; it looked like a mystery animal.  
Hippopotamus--do you want one for Christmas? There were plenty.
 Blue Wildabeeast--these used to exist in the millions, but the numbers are much diminished; a lot like the American Buffalo.
 Crocodile on the bank waiting to eat you--you notice not of these shots are close up except maybe the butterfly. You aren't allowed to get out your vehicle in Kruger Park. A lot of things would consider you for a very pleasant "different" kind of dinner.
A Leopard Tortoise which is one of the "little five"
A very big male elephant who you would not want to get close to. He had been spraying himself with water so he looks multi-colored. 
It's odd to see these huge ant hills or termite hills everywhere. A lot of small mammals live in them. Some of these can be almost as tall as trees.
 These little impalas are the most plentiful animal. These two are having a dispute about something. There are so many animals in the deer family in the park--about 20--that some of the other missionaries were just calling everything DLA's (deer like animals :)
 You'll notice that the grass is all dry and brown in the pictures--that is the best time to see the animals because they can't hide so well, but you can definitely see that they are still able to camouflage. I'm sure there were a lot of animals that we didn't see that certainly saw us.
For example, would you notice the giraffe if you were driving by?

Thursday, June 19, 2014


You might remember that I did a post a couple of months ago about our technology whoas. We didn't get a phone assigned for a few weeks after we arrived and then the one that was assigned turned out to have belonged to the facilities director previously, so we were getting calls at all hours about security alarms :) Our flat didn't have Internet but after a couple of months we were given a mobile WiFi that only worked occasionally and quickly ran out of data. Our work depends a lot on the Internet so we've put on a lot of miles going to the office almost ever day.

Part of all of the tangle was that they didn't know if we would stay in Johannesburg or be transferred to Botswana but that's another story I'll write about later. Now that they've decided that no non-native missionaries are going to be going to Botswana, an order was finally made to have Internet put into our flat. We waited the minimum 21 days (!!!) for the order to go through and then finally called to check on the status. A confusion about who made the order caused the person in charge to cancel it, so we started another 21 day wait. Finally yesterday they called to say a technician was here (no warning that he was coming) so we rushed home and asked our landlord to tackle him if he had to so he wouldn't leave until we got here. The line was installed and we were given a number to call to set up the router, etc. We spent almost all day and evening on the phone (most of the time waiting.) We talked to three different technicians, but still it wouldn't work. I'm sure we used up all of our airtime on our cell phone hoping to get an answer. FINALLY today we talked to a young woman who seemed to know more than just the script. She was able to "sort out" the problems which basically had to do with a temporary password that didn't work, a period at the end of the password that the people yesterday said HAD to be included and she said should not have been and directions on how we could assign our own password since the setup program did not like the key on the bottom of the modem. I know to all of you, Internet seems as expected as going to your sink and getting a drink of water, but here it is an exciting thing for us to finally be able to sit with our laptops and connect! (by the way we can't always get water from the tap either :)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Rhino Rescue!

 For the last few days we have had the amazing opportunity to participate in a rhino rescue in Kruger National Park, South Africa. One of the full time employees of the church here in Johannesburg has been involved with rhino conservation for many years and arranges with the experts for us to participate in the rescues. Rhinos are in real trouble worldwide because of the illegal demand for their horns, which are unfortunately the most expensive commodity in the world right now. Ground horn brings wildly high prices because some people, primarily Asians believe that the powder cures illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, strokes, convulsions and fevers.  South Africa is home to 83% of Africa’s rhinos and 73% of all wild rhinos worldwide but a population of 500,000 in the early twentieth century has shrunk to a point that, if poaching continues at the current rate, rhinos could be extinct in the near future.
A large number of the rhinos in South Africa are in Kruger National Park, which is an astounding 6.2 million acres, most of it delineated by natural borders such as rivers or mountain ranges. Because of the borders and the size, protecting the animals by patrol is difficult to impossible. Rhino rescues have been developed as a way to curtail poaching by marking the animal for monitoring and recording the DNA so that anyone caught poaching can be prosecuted to the fullest extent. Also, because poachers are learning that this is being done, poaching has decreased dramatically in the areas where rhinos are being marked in this way.
So far, there have been over 400 animals tagged and recorded, with a cost of about 3,000 US dollars per tagging. Government funding doesn’t cover the effort so groups are invited to participate, with their fees funding the rescue. LDS senior missionaries are perfect invitees because they capable and responsible and usually have extra income for adventures. Our group of about 20 stayed at Ndabushi, which is called a bush camp, but it had nice cottages. We were able to go on two game drives through the park where we observed lots and lots of birds and animals, which I will do a separate post on in the next couple of days, but I know our family is anxious to hear about the rhino rescue so I’ll first post about that most important part of our adventure.
After the rhino is shot with the cocktail that anesthetizes him, he will run for about eight minutes, so the rescue has to take place in the cool part of the year and in the early morning. We were up and ready to go by 6 a.m.

The trucks were open sided--we were in the back in the high seats. The truck parked fairly close to the rhino just in case we had to make a mad dash for it should the rhino wake up. In this case, we had to be especially watchful because mama was waiting nearby.

Before the rescue began, the veterinarian and the park ranger thoroughly explained what would happen and assigned roles. Here he is talking about the rope that might need to be thrown to catch a hind leg should the rhino not go down as planned.
And here is the shot needle that would inject the medication which included a couple of kinds of tranquilizer and long lasting antibiotic that would guard against possible infection. In the back of the needle assembly is a cartridge that fires when the needle hits the animal. This ensures that the medication penetrates the possibly two inches of tough hide. 
This is the gun that they used to shoot the medication and the person who will shoot it. He is the foremost authority on rhino rescue.
The helicopter arrived just after the sun came up and the vet boarded to go to find a rhino to rescue and then try to heard the animal toward us. The helicopter flying overhead and the noise of the rotors probably scares them rhino, but a loud whooping horn also drives him. If the rhino doesn't come to us, we would leave in the trucks to go to where it is.
After several minutes, a young rhino, approximately three years old came running out of the bushes to where we were waiting in the truck in a clearing. He took a look at the truck and decided that was not a safe way to run so he went back into the bush and ran out again three or four times. The pilot was trying to drive him onto the clear ground, but the medication took effect in the brush. We drove into the brush a short distance and waited for the signal to begin the rescue. We might have waited a little while longer than usual and were especially cautious because the three year old's mother was not eager to be separated from her baby. The helicopter stayed busy keeping the adult away while we worked.
 Our rhino is a small male, but still weighs approximately a ton. They are happy to rescue young ones because the hope is that the tagging will ensure them a long life which should be up to 55 years. The first task was putting the blanket over his eyes. This keeps out visual stimulation and also guards against eye damage since their eyes remain open during the entire procedure.
One of the participants had the job of monitoring breathing. The amount and type of anesthesia has been perfected through the times they have done the rescues. They have found that rhinos take surprisingly small amounts to react, but there is always the possibility of overdose in which case an antidote is closely at hand. The guy with the responsibility of monitoring breathing was an orthodontist so was well acquainted with anesthesia.
In order to maintain proper breathing and avoid circulatory problems, the animal has to be positioned with the legs crossed and underneath. That also prevents him from turning on his side when people are working on him. It took the strength of as many as could fit around this little guy to get him in position. I have no idea how they would correct a bad position in a fully grown rhino.
There were three young veterinary students present who were doing a rotation in exotic animals. One of them kept track of his pulse.
Someone had the job of recording all of the vital statistics and measurements. This information will be kept in a data base in order to monitor the animal through his lifetime.
The vet has marked his ears for the notching. They explained the notching pattern but I lost track. On two ears with three possible notches on each, I think they can eventually distinguish almost a thousand rhinos. You can also see the hi-tech rhino earplugs with are rolled up socks. That was another person's job--to get the socks in at the beginning of the process.
 This lady's job was pulling out some of the tail hairs so that DNA could be extracted and recorded. It was surprisingly hard to pull out rhino tail hair so that the follicles would still be intact which is necessary for the sampling.
Elder Davie got to have the cool job of actually drilling a hole into each of the two horns. In these two holes, microchips are inserted and then hidden so that if the horns are poached, the origins can be easily traced and those in possession of the horns be prosecuted. The hard tissue that comes out with the drill is also saved for DNA identification. It seemed to be close to the consistency of plastic.
After the chips are inserted into the horns, a wooden peg with glue and driven into each hole. It is then broken off and smoothed and dirt rubbed into it so that the place the chip is hidden isn't detectable. A second set of chips is inserted behind each ear.
 You can't really see me back there, but I am there doing my job which was putting the ointment into the eyes of the rhino just before he is ready to wake up. Of course I am cautioned not to touch the eye but to just squirt the ointment on the bottom eye lid. This moistens the eye but probably also contains antibiotic in case any contaminants have been introduced. His eyes were like horse's eyes but small.
Here's our boy recovering from his encounter with humans. He was very shaky and confused for a moment or two, but then hurried off to find his mom and tell her on us I'm sure. Each of the rescue groups choose a name for the rhino they have rescued. A couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on the trip had the honor of naming and chose the name Ammon. They named him for the place in Idaho where they lived, but Ammon is a perfect name for him. In the Book of Mormon, the young men named Ammonites after Ammon were great and valiant young warriors who gave the credit for their teaching to their mothers. The organizer of our rescue said that he had full confidence that Ammon would do well because his mother was so watchful and so protective of her calf. We hope that when our grandchildren visit Kruger Park one day in the future that there will still be rhinos and that Ammon will be among them.
Here is a chart showing the sobering statistics of what is happening to the rhinos because of unfounded belief is the medicinal benefit of their horns. We saw a number of pictures of rhinos who had been poached. The poacher usually kills them, but sometimes they anesthetize them and then cut the horns off leaving a horribly disfigured rhino. Hopefully efforts like this will start the graph on a downward trend.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Missionary Weekend

 I guess every weekend for a missionary must be a missionary weekend, but I’ll use the phrase to mean” young missionary weekend.” Friday was the start of the missionary weekend and the most dramatic. We inspected eight missionary “flats” to make sure the elders are keeping them clean, but also to check on the elders to make sure that they have what they need and that they are OK. Some are pretty far out from the mission office so they don’t have a lot of contact with the office people or other senior missionaries. A while ago the mission office found that one set of elders had been climbing through their window for several weeks to get into their apartment before anyone found out that their front door was broken and wouldn’t open.
            On Friday, at the second flat we went to, one of the elders said that they had a leak around their toilet. Elder Davie was busy chatting with the other elder so I went into the bathroom to check to see what the problem might be. I could see water around the base of the toilet but the seal seemed to be intact so I felt under the porcelain neck and found it dry. Then I put my fingers under the water line where it met the tile wall. I barely touched it when the metal connector broke and the water exploded, giving me a thorough (and cold) morning shower. The connector was smaller on the side that didn’t fit to the wall, so I thought I might be able to push that side into the stream to slow the water while someone found a shut off valve. That only dispersed it so I became even more soaked. It didn’t take long for one of the elders to find out where the water shut off but it was long enough to make quite a mess, which we helped to clean up of course. I really wanted the picture the elder took of the cleanup to post on the blog, but in South Africa sending a picture is not as simple as it was at home :) Elders don't have Internet so they have to wait to get to an Internet cafe to connect. That repair wasn’t anything we could help with so the poor elders were without water for a couple of days while their landlord got around to getting it fixed.
            The next day we helped at a zone conference for about 50 elders, or approximately a quarter of those serving in Johannesburg. In the morning we helped to inspect the vehicles. Again, those inspections are partly to make sure the elders were keeping the cars cleaned and maintained, but then also to check to make sure that the tires had good tread, all the lights worked properly, etc. After that we helped serve dinner and were able to hear a short part of their conference. Since the young elders work in two’s almost all the time, they really look forward to the chance they have to get together at these conferences to associate with the group. It was fun to be part of it. The elder talking in the picture is also Elder Davey but spelled differently than ours.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Babies on Backs

 Wherever you go in South Africa and probably in all of Africa, you see babies transported on their mother's backs. Although I have seen the mothers put the babies on their backs a number of times, I have not yet had a camera ready at the moment they are going through the steps to do so, and once they have them on and snuggly, I wouldn't ask them to take them off and re-enact :)  I've never seen a father with a baby on his back. In fact, I've seldom seen fathers carry babies at all, that is except in the LDS church meetings--there the fathers take care of their little ones and take turns taking them in and out just like they do in the states. 
The arrangement really looks a little precarious, considering you're carrying precious cargo and also considering that some of the babies tied are quite big, but I am told that the method is very secure and that they can't fall off. If you'd like to see a video on how the babies are tied here's one I found on Youtube that shows it exactly as I've seen it. The link is
It's amazing to see how immediately the babies quiet down as soon as their mothers bend over to tie them on. Once on and tied, they are so securely immobile that they have no choice but to be content to look around or, more likely, to fall asleep. In church one day we sat by a mother with a little girl who had a doll with her and a little blanket. When she turned around, her mother knew immediately what she wanted--she placed the doll on her daughter's back and the little girl turned to have her mom tie it in front in the same way that the big mommies do.