Archive | November 2012

Piki piki

The island encompasses 250 square kilometres and there are some parts which can easily be reached by foot. But to get to the vast majority of chimp areas we use motorbikes  here are just some of the pictures taken during 2012 field season.

returning from the forest with JL, and L

Last week some new vehicles arrived to replace our dying Yamahas.  Thank you so much AE, JW and JF for sending these out to us.


SS taking a bike out for a test drive


Climbing trees

For my research on chimpanzee nests I am measuring thickness, depth, width as well as the number of plant parts used in nest construction. In order to do this we have to get inside the nests. This  is done in two ways, either by free-climbing the tree to reach the nest or by using ropes and climbing gear adopted from rock climbers.

     Above SO is free-climbing a nest 8 metres above the ground  

It was interesting to watch SO climbing this tree because he did it with such ease, looking utterlycomfortable up in that tree. After several months I still get nervous 5 metres off the ground.

Free climbing can be risky, and some of the nests on the island are located more than 20 metres high. So we are also using the double rope technique to reach the higher nests.

   Above JL getting some practise in using ropes. 

SS hovering above the ground 

JS inside a nest

Above is a photo of me climbing up to a nest 25 metres, I am about halfway there in the photo. The pic was taken by JS who was 8 metres off the ground. 

After a long day of climbing we get very tired and often take naps. Fortunately the chimp nests are very comfortable when they are green (newly built).

Lastly above is my first photo of a Rubondo chimp inside a nest … two in fact, there is another chimp just hidden out of view by the leaves on the left hand side.

The return

After an extended break from the island–2 months–I am now back, London was great because I had a chance to see my friends and family. But I have also missed Rubondo and my little chimpies. So after a month of October of not seeing the elusive fellas I had a wonderful end of the month when the chimps decided to stay with us last Friday.
We heard the chimpanzees calling on several consecutive days, and saw them briefly for half an hour on Thursday. Then because we knew roughly where they were sleeping on Thursday night, we travelled early in the morning at 5AM to Kamea on Friday; on entering the forest at 06:25hrs we heard load chimpanzee calls and walked closer towards their sounds. We observed the chimpanzees dropping from their nests and walking along the forest floor. It was very dark at this time and so it was difficult to see them clearly. But we think there were about 6 chimps in total.. The chimpanzees kept vocalising for half an hour. Several of them started to move up the hill, and my trackers followed them up onto the top. We saw one chimpanzee climb back on top of a tree. So together with a field assistant I stayed back and waited for it to drop back down. We waited for nearly an hour. It was difficult to see the chimpanzee because the tree in which it was located in was very bushy/dense-we patiently sat and waited.

Then suddenly there was a commotion in the tree and two chimpanzees climbed out and onto another tree. They crossed several trees and finally settled down to observe us. There was one adult male and one juvenile male. They continued to call intermittently for around 3 hours. They were feeding and resting for some of the time. The chimpanzees remained with us for 10 hours and even built a proper day nest up in the trees. I had to send one of my boys to fetch me some lunch at midday. Eventually at 16:30hrs they moved off to join their fellows and we lost them in the thick lianas.