Before my trip to the Kalahari, I was pretty happy to have an “easy” start to my research, because my colleagues had already habituated and radio-collared several bat-eared foxes, or batties, as they are fondly called. In my very first night in the Kalahari, we came across a batty standing in the middle of the road! This was going to be fun and I couldn’t wait to start with fieldwork the next day. What’s more, my colleague Ruan would be by my side to show me the ropes. So what was there to worry about? Well, I was soon to find out.
The next day, we set out in search of batties and in my excitement, I did everything wrong: Firstly, I forgot to pack the most essential fieldtrip equipment: a GPS and cooler bag for faecal samples. Then, I left my winter jacket in the car … we are in the heart of winter and temperatures plummet to sub-zero degrees at night. At sunset, we spotted our first batch of animals at a water-holding spot optimistically called Lake Victoria. What a relief to finally see them up close and personal! But they all looked alike to me, apart from ‘Donna’ whose personality shone through as the grumpiest of them all. Fine, though, I was ready for this! Yet, in a few short minutes I realized data collection is not straightforward at night. How does one maintain speed with an animal sprinting across thorny thickets and slippery sand dunes, all the while carrying a loaded backpack, a Samsung tablet in one hand and a spotlight in the other? One thing is certain; I won’t need a gym membership card for the longest time to come!