We just got back from a 3-day trip to Kokolopori (~70km away from Wamba or 2.5 hours of sandy-bumpy motorbike trail + 1h walk into the forest), where another group of researchers and trackers study bonobos. It was nice to visit a camp isolated in the forest for a change (not in the village like Wamba) and to meet its crew. This meant bathing in the river, sleeping in hammock (or tent) and seeing red-tail monkeys from it, hearing the peaceful symphony of birds and insects (instead of screaming kids), and on the downside more mice and snakes as well as way too many bees and bombos (-annoying micro-biting flies)! During our short stay, we could compare both field sites and noticed a few striking differences: machetes get replaced by secateurs; trackers use phones to record daily data on bonobo behavior and female sexual swelling; one group of bonobos is named after singers so, we witnessed Jackson grooming Madonna, the big belly of Papa Wemba, and the congenital abnormality of Bowie (-no balls); but also much more frequent inter-group encounters and way more bombos (did I say it already?!). We for sure brought lots of ideas and resolutions back to Wamba so, thanks to Martin Surbeck and his team for hosting us!
Stormy-rainy day today and for once I’m happy to be inside. Last night, we screened the two short films “Madame Morgane” (Morgane Allanic, PhD student at KUPRI), as she is called here, made last year: one about bonobos and one about life at Wamba. People absolutely loved it!!! It was sooooo good!!! Some of them were seeing themselves on a film for the first time, Papa Nkoyi kept identifying all old bonobo females he saw as “Nao” –one of the oldest female of Kamekake (and no one dared to contradict him), bonobo sex scenes were of course a blast, and we couldn’t stop laughing while watching our trackers dancing during a ceremony. (We all agreed that some could clearly improve their move.) By the end of the evening, we reached over 100 hundred laughers in this small village of Equatorial Africa and had to screen each film twice –exactly what everyone needed after the past two weeks. Cheers from the forest!
After “Humans of New York”, “Paris”, or “Tehran”, here comes the first portrait for “Humans of Wamba”! Nkoyi Batolumbo, ~73-83++ (people don’t know their exact birthdate here and it may vary of a few years…), freshly back from a ~1200km motorbike and boat trip to open a bank account (-we were a bit worried…), is the first bonobo tracker of the Wamba project. Papa Nkoyi (= leopard in Lingala) survived one civil war and much more. His name comes from a story that happened during the chaos. At that time (1996), bonobo research was interrupted as the army was occupying our present field station and many villagers escaped into the forest. One day, some soldiers threatened Papa Nkoyi and asked him to show them where the bonobos live. They wanted to get some meat. Papa Nkoyi refused. He told them that they can kill him but he won’t show the location of the bonobos because he doesn’t want to lose his job. Since then, “Nkoyi” was added in front of his name to reflect his fearless character, bonobos survived, and research resumed in 2003. Papa Nkoyi is now retired and an honorary member of the Center for Research in Ecology and Forestry (CREF) at Wamba.
Warning: this time, there is blood AND feces in the same post (–sorry). Dear fellow scatologists, scatophiles and others, here is a field “Cluedo” for you. Let’s set up the crime scene first. It was mid-afternoon on a sunny Sunday, in front of our window. How nice. A decapitated mouse and next to it as a signature and provocation from the author of the crime: a big ‘greeny-bloody’ turd. We will give you two clues to help us elucidate this affair. Clue n°1: the apparent type and size of the signature is not a reliable cue. Clue n°2: neither Toda nor I. In the second photo, the principal suspect trying to hide…