James Borrell is a biodiversity scientist and science communicator researching how people and nature can adapt to environmental change.

11 things I’ve learnt whilst living in South Africa

Living and working at Umphafa Reserve has been a steep learning curve, and great fun. Here’s a few tips I’ve picked up since I arrived.

1. Should you get on the wrong side of a Rhino, don’t run. They have poor eyesight, so jumping out of the way and staying still ought to do the trick (N.B. Don’t worry Mum, I don’t plan to test it.)

2. Surprisingly, the Honey Badger is one of the most aggressive and dangerous animals out in the bush, they can quite literally eat snakes for breakfast.

3. According to the statistics, here in Kwa-Zulu Natal, there are more lightning strikes than anywhere else in South Africa (judging by the last two nights, I’m inclined to agree!).

4. Wild hunting dogs are probably the most efficient predators, with 80% of hunts ending in a kill (compared to about 30% in Lions).

5. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. In South Africa, if an animal ends up on your land, it’s yours.

6. Riding in the back of a pickup truck is probably the most fun you can have on four wheels, just remember to keep your mouth closed or it’ll be bugs for lunch.

7. Cheetah have had a rough time, they underwent a population bottleneck and so are all very closely related. Each one has a unique DNA profile, and reserve managers can match these up so that the right individuals breed, ensuring the future of the species.

8. Running for your life is a bigger incentive than running for your dinner.

9. Poaching is still a huge problem, 600 Rhino have been killed since the beginning of 2010.

10. Giraffes duel it out by necking, which, as it sounds, involved hitting each other with their necks.

11. A drive to the nearest town is never dull, and normally entails numerous stops (which are requested by passengers banging on the roof), in order to have a look at various creatures along the way. Your average return journey might happen across Ostrich, Kudu, Water Monitor or perhaps Jackal.

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