Wamba Diary #2
Fieldworkers would probably agree that time has a different meaning in the field. In Japan, doing deskwork, time just flies. In Wamba, you feel every hour. We have been here for only 10 days but it feels like one month. The days start early, by 4 am we are already up, and leave for the forest around 4:30 am with headlights and boots on. It takes 1 to 1h30min on foot to reach the nesting site of bonobos from the field station. On the way, the sound of insects and the voices of trackers speaking in their local language, Longando, make me think (–until the entrance of the forest at least, after what I must concentrate on what is on the ground!). We usually arrive before the bonobos wake up and wait under their nests. Then, infants start playing around and getting down. There are two well habituated groups in Wamba: E1 and PE. This week, we followed both groups. While E1 lives mainly in primary forest, PE rather lives in swampy areas of secondary forest which makes their observation very challenging. But once you’ve overcome branches, roots, vines, holes, spikes, sweat flies (-they love us as much as we hate them), swamps, ants, pees and poops, bonobos are so cool to observe! Both groups include several infants and juveniles so, we witness funny scenes. Bonobos are a food taboo in Wamba, which is not the case for many other animals inhabiting the forest. However, several individuals have missing fingers or legs due to snares originally made to catch duikers and other wildlife. Sadly, this and other individual features help identification. I have nicknamed a few to facilitate memorization: Nobita is “Voldemort” –part of his nose is ripped off, Kalin is “Greemlin”, and Ten is known as “White nipples”. I found more nicknames linked to genital parts that I won’t share here… Bombambo (“parasol tree”), Bokombe, Bolinda, and Bosenge are some of their current favorite trees and some names to remember. So, we go from tree to tree, from primary to secondary forest, from agricultural fields with old mamas looking at bonobos with intense curiosity, to swampy forest until they nest, around 17:30 these days. We were under some of their nesting tree, it was already getting dark in the forest when we heard high pitch “Yaaaah Yaaaaah Yaaaaah”. Toda told me: “Sunset call, they will sleep here”. So, we took the GPS location and we left, came back to camp after some kilometers on the Bomboli ("butterfly" in Lingala) road (= unstable bamboos and dead tree trunks to cross the river) and made it just on time for the daily staff meeting at 7pm. A bucket of water, and a plate of rice, eggs, matembele and beya later, and it’s our time to sleep…
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