Monday, April 4, 2016

Field Update: First discoveries at a new temporary chimpanzee research site in Gabon!

Arnold, Emily, and Marcel about to enjoy a ride back to the village

This week's field update is from Emily Neil who is working as temporary research site (TRS) managers in Monts de Cristal National Park, Gabon as part of the MPI-EVA's Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee and in collaboration with l'Agence Nationale Des Parcs Nationaux Du Gabon.

Emily writes:
We arrived at our fourth potential temporary research site in November, feeling hopeful that this would be where we'd find chimps and begin our study. After three months of wandering the jungles of Monts de Cristal National Park in Gabon, Marcel and I were ready to find a sizable population of chimpanzees! 
Marcel, Yves, and Francois awaiting our ride after a long day of trekking
We arrived at the village and hired an amazing young guide named Arnold. His first day on the job was particularly exciting:
After a hearty breakfast of rice and beans, we entered into the deep, dense jungle. The air was heavy with humidity, and all we could hear were the iconic barking calls of the great blue turaco and the hum of cicadas. It had rained heavily the night before, making the going a bit slow. It is not easy going up and down mud-slicked hills! We slip a lot, and all three of us fall flat on our faces or butts at least once a day. This is usually a great source of entertainment -- who can have the most impressive wipeout of the day? Well, that day I won the award. While looking down at my GPS, I suddenly felt my foot fall down something and then get stuck, causing me to fall forward, right onto my face! Turns out I had stepped into a water-filled elephant footprint, sinking up to my knee, and losing my boot in the process! Luckily my boot wasn't completely submerged, so I quickly snatched it out of the murky footprint-depths, put a plastic bag over my sock to keep it from the now-damp boot, and continued on, pride somewhat still intact. 
Nice example of a natural bridge in our TRS
After about an hour, we got a call from Arnold, who was following us nearby. He had found a chimpanzee tool-use site! Over the course of the day (his very first day on the job, I might add) he helped us find dozens of chimp nests, including several brand-new day nests, and an amazing total of three tool-use sites. We set up camera traps at all the sites we found, and headed back home for the day. On the way back, we very narrowly avoided stepping on a beautiful green bush viper. It seemed sluggish, like it had just eaten, so we took some pictures and continued on. A short time later, we discovered leopard and gorilla prints in the mud, and heard the whistling calls of a flock of African grey parrots overhead.
Nephilia turneri - golden silk orb-weaver. 
It was the size of my hand, and you can really see the golden web!
Bush viper... A beautiful, well-camouflaged, and venomous snake!
Over the next few weeks, we heard, for the first time ever, chimps screaming and drumming. Understandably, we were excited to see if we had gotten anything on video! We were able to retrieve five cameras on the first "camera trap day." We returned home with our pockets full of SD cards, giddy with excitement. But alas, there were no chimp videos! The next day, we retrieved our final three SD cards. We went through two of them... Nothing. The third card had a measly 20 videos on it, most of which would inevitably be false triggers from sunlight or waving plants. I disappointedly began going through the videos anyway. Lo and behold, the very first video had a chimp on it! I hollered, much to the alarm of Marcel, and checked the next video. That very same chimp was using a tool!! All of our hard work had paid off. We are so excited to see what our new site has in store for us next.
Our first chimp spot!

1 comment:

  1. Love the blog and the site seems encouraging with lots and varieties of Animals especially the Gorillas and Elephants.