by Hannah Mossman
Everyone who goes on safari in East Africa hopes for 'David Attenborough' moments filled with members of the big five. And we certainly had our fair share of these on the field course to Tanzania last year, getting fantastic sightings of all of the big five - including a moving encounter with the critically endangered black rhino, a female leopard and cub, and lots of elephants. As I gear up for this year's trip, I am of course excited to see lions and the extremely high level of rhino poaching across Africa means that any encounter with a rhino might be the last I get in the wild. But these are just a small portion of the 48 mammal species that we saw, and I am particularly excited about the smaller things that usually get less attention - and last year a spikey prowler was one of my favourites.
In the Serengeti I was woken in the middle of the night by a loud snuffling and rustling outside of my tent. Being sensible (and a bit scared!) I chose not to look outside and convinced myself the noise was Ed in the text next to me - but the same happened the next night. I mentioned it to Ed but he denied it was him, so the next evening we surrounded our tents with camera traps in the hope of catching the culprit - and we did! It was a porpine grubbing about for roots and I must have put my tent on their regular foraging route.
Being surrounded by the huge herds of herbivores and all eyes peeled for a large carnivore can make it easy to overlook the thousands of other non-mammalian species we see. But the stunning birds and butterflies do hold their own, and the several days we spent practising ecological sampling techniques and ID of birds, butterflies and acacias allowed us to get close to these amazing species. Over the two weeks, we identified 185 species of bird and 48 species of butterfly - our plant list was rather lower, but I have some new plant ID books and intend to make amends this year!