THE TWELVE MONTHS OF MODISA
2012 was our first year and it has been more exciting than we could ever have imagined. Modisa is now fully up and running. We’ve had more than 35 volunteers, who all left with a great experience. Our lioness, Sirga is growing up as a healthy, happy lioness – and much, much more.
Here are our reflections of 2012
Building the camp – January
In January we started building our camp. Everything had to be transported to our location, which is roughly 280 km away from Maun. This was a bit of a challenge, as we could only contact with the transport company, if we drove 60km on dirt road for cell phone connection. However, everything worked out and we got all our tents, solar power panels and equipment for the camp and we could start the hard work of making our plot turn into a nice camp. After 2 months the camp was ready to welcome our first volunteers in April.
Sirga – February
One of our lion prides had cubs in the end of february and we were hoping that everything would work out well so the cubs could stay with their pride. Unfortunately all the cubs got killed, except for one – that one cub was instead pushed away from the pride and was severely dehydrated. We quickly had to make a plan, so Valentin contacted the wildlife vet, who helped us get the right treatment and the right mixture of milk for a lion. Valentin went back to camp to monitor the cub and see how the pride was responding. They showed no interest and the cub couldn’t even walk. We even tried to give her a bottle of milk inside the enclosure, since we would do anything to keep her with the other lions. Unfortunately she was too weak to drink, so we decided to take her out and give her treatment. She was weighing less than 2kg, so Valentin put her on a drip, while we were in contact with the wildlife vet. The vet told us to give her a 100ml drip, which we did and she almost looked like a water balloon. After a few hours the drip was absorbed to her body and she slowly started to take the bottle. She was still weak for a few weeks, but she got healthier and healthier.
At this day we believe that she is probably, the most spoiled and well fed lion you can find in Botswana. We made her milk from scratch – fresh eggs, cream, milk, vitamins, sunflower oil and calcium – luxurious meal for a little lion. Now she is too old for milk, but we are still making sure to cut the best pieces of meat for her.
We decided the name her Sirga – after the movie called “Sirga the lioness”, which is a story about a lion growing up with a guy in the bush.
Our first volunteers – April
Our first volunteers arrived in April. It was really exciting for us, to test our program and our lectures. Our lectures are an important and big part of the program, since we want every one to leave Modisa, with the correct and increased knowledge about the eco-system and the struggles the wildlife is facing. The lectures and the program were a great success, and it is great to know that everyone leaves us, with a greater knowledge and understanding of Africa’s wildlife.
Filming – June
During the start up of Modisa Wildlife Project, we realized that we needed a video, to give people a better understanding of what they can be part of. This should be combined with our new website. For that we invited Jannie Nikola Laursen, who is a nature photographer from Denmark and Gareth Flemix, who is a film photographer and professional guide in Botswana. It was some exciting weeks, with lots of filming and beautiful photos. We ended up with about 10.000 pictures and more than 9 hours of film. The result can now be seen on our website.
Summer school with Texas University, Austin – June
While we were filming and running the program with 4 volunteers, we got an email from our friend Thoralf Meyer and his wife, Dr. Kelley Crews-Meyer who is a professor at The University of Texas, Austin. They held a summer school with 14 students and wanted to come down to get some lectures and to experience what we were doing. They had a great time and we will continue with the summer school students in 2013. Thoralf and Kelley are also helping us, writing the correct methods for our data collection and to add more to our lectures – really inspiring to work with people with so much field knowledge.
Our presentation video – July
In July, Mikkel went back to Denmark to start working on the new website and start editing the film with a professional editor, Anders Due-Boje, from Denmark. The film also needed music, so we were lucky that a composer, Tobias Witten and a music producer, Asmus Brandt, who wanted to write and produce the music for the video. The video should also include speech, so we got Sergio Giovanni to do the speaking for us. This process was really exciting. We ended up with 2 minutes out of the 9 hours of footage and we are so proud of the result!
New website in progress – August
While working with the video, Mikkel also started working on the website. Luckily we had WiFi installed in the camp, so Mikkel and Valentin could keep in touch more than just once a week, to talk about what should happen at the camp and what should happen in Europe. The new website was a lot of work, but we have had lots of great feedback from people following our Facebook page and from our volunteers. It was especially importan,t that we could create a part of the website only for the volunteers, so they can get all the information they need before and after they have booked their trip.
New office in Copenhagen – September
In September we got offered a great office in Copenhagen, where Mikkel can work with the marketing and the whole setup of Modisa, outside of Botswana. The office has a great environment, with lots of interesting companies and inspiring people, who after a short time started to help us with the website and with good ideas and suggestions. We also started a company in Denmark, which is attached to Modisa Wildlife Project in Botswana. This company is running all the marketing campaigns, events etc.
Birth control implant for all lionesses + chip and ID of all lions. – October
Since lions breed extremely well in captivity and since our lion camps are running out of space, we decided to give all the lionesses birth control implants, in order to stop them from breeding. We had 12 lionesses, whom needed to get the implants, so we started very early in the morning, together with the wildlife vet and our volunteers. We went in and darted and treated one lioness at the time. We really had to keep our eyes and ears open, since the rest of the pride – especially the males were fully awake, and not that happy about us being so close to their ladies. It took us 2 days to treat all the lionesses and at the same time we took DNA samples, blood samples, chipped them and ID photos, so we can monitor each lion and their behavior. We also used this chance to health check all the lions closely and provide the basic medical care for them such as rabies vaccines, dewormers etc…
Shortly afterwards we decided to chip all our male lions as well, so our vet came down again and our male lions got the same care – obviously apart from the birth control.
Building Sirga’s new enclosure – November
Our little princess Sirga is not that little anymore, so she needed a new and much bigger home. This was a huge project, since we had to dig a trench about 1m deep and 200m long and then fill it up with cement to ensure that she can’t dig her way out and nothing can get inside. Now she has a big enclosure with a big waterhole and she still gets a 3 hour walk each day, on the 10.000 hectare property, where she can practice her hunting skills and explore the entire area.
Launch of our presentation video & new website – December
After more than 5 months of work, the video and the new website was ready to be launched. This was something we had been really looking forward to, so we could show people more about Modisa and give much more information, to our existing and future volunteers. After 3 days, the video got more 3000 views and lots of great feedback.
Our first year has been a truly exciting year and we have achieved so much together with our dedicated volunteers . 2013 will bring even more challenges and lots of new tasks to bring Modisa to the next steps.
Thanks so much for your support – we are really looking forward to share our progress with you!
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!
Mikkel and Valentin