Wednesday, 22 January 2014
Back From The Forest
Hello readers. I am still around. Having got back from no internet after working with bonobos it is time for a quick overview. Expect more posts soon. So I accepted a position to habituate bonobos with the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The field site was only accessible via a two hours flight into the interior, followed by a 25km hike from the nearest village to the study site. A flight arrived approximately once a month, bringing in any supplies we could not obtain from the village. I followed a group of semi habituated Bonobos on a four days on, one day off schedule through the dense tangle of the rainforest. I would cover an average of 10km per day (my working day commencing at 3.30am and ending around 7 pm). The field conditions at times where less than favorable, the path to the study site involved crossing rivers and swamps and the weather, intense humidity and dense vegetation made movement difficult.
Accommodation was in a two-man tent and the whole of the camp was constructed of wooden buildings that have to be replaced annually. We had limited access to the outside world via radio frequency emails that where checked daily. During my time there the camp manager was forced to leave suddenly. With no replacement available until the next flight I took on the role of camp administrator. This position involved paying local staff, keeping to a budget and paying the village for use of the forest, among other demands on the camp finances. I was also in charge of paying for provisions that came from the village via porters once a week. In addition I helped out, together with the rest of the research team of five individuals, with the general management of the camp. This involved organising local staff rotation, making sure staff carried out work, camp maintenance and checking supplies. I was sad to leave once my visa had expired, but very fortunate to be offered a position as a field guide at Amakhala game reserve for Lion Roars just three weeks later; a position I naturally accepted.
John) Matthew Stritch is a Zoologist traveling to some of the more remote locations on the planet. Having spent nine months studying wild bonobos Matt then went on to be a safari guide in South Africa. He has also worked in Mauritius as warden of world renowned Round Island and more recently he has been habituating lowland gorilla in Gabon. Matt has an interest in animal behaviour, film making, photography and writing. His first book: "A Zoologists Stumbling's in Africa: How to Habituate a Bonobo" is about his time in the jungles of the Democratic Republic of Congo.