At Wamba, we started training for the 2018 FIPA (Federation of International Primatological Associations) World (Primate) Cup, which will be held this summer during the International Primatological Society Congress in Nairobi. We hope the rest of the team in Japan is doing the same! Get ready Nairobi, WCBR [Wamba Committee for Bonobo Research] is coming!
Lots of things happened over the past two weeks –some exciting, some others a bit less. Let’s start with exciting stuffs! First, earlier this week, some E1 females hunted ‘itere’, a flying squirrel constituting the only known source of meat for bonobos at Wamba –something very rare to witness. Kiku, the alpha female of E1 group caught it and shared with Sachi -an adolescent female asking for a piece while offering her genital in exchange. Kalin, Kiku’s juvenile daughter got a piece too, as well as Fua and Namie, two other young females. Males got nothing this time. Then, another rare event happened in Wamba bonobos' life: both groups encountered! I could not witness it myself as something less exciting, called Malaria, knocked back at my door at the same time but Toda, Bafaluka, Isolumbo, Emike and Mboka did. E1 group fled at first and later, the trackers observed some agonistic interactions between both groups but Fua did not seem to mind and was the one initiating affiliative behaviors towards members of PE group such as grooming. Both groups nested in the vicinity and interacted again the next day. Fua remained in PE group while the rest of E1 returned to their part of the forest. Meanwhile, at camp, we started discussing conservation education activities with the school director of the locality and some teachers. We also got the visit of an anthropologist, Dr. Lys Alcayna, a postdoc at the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale and at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, who works on the perception of Conservation NGOs by local people as well as on the recent Ebola outbreak (2014) in the region (–it was nice meeting you Lys!). And then, we got another surprise visit from the Ministry of Environment which came to witness some deforestation issues happening within the Scientific Reserve of Luo… -an experience to say the least.
Some momentum as supplementary material:
- Not understanding Besao, the ‘sentinel’ (-I made progress in Lingala but not yet enough…), who is asking me to remove my clothes that are drying outside because the woman who usually does it is at a funeral and he can’t touch my "women clothes"… I only understood ‘morte’ (= dead in French) and was wondering who died and what he was trying to tell me…
- At the church, the priest is reciting the Bible in Lingala and a pig just outside the window is snorting between verses while everyone is keeping its seriousness...
Cheers from the forest!
Last night, we screened the film “BONOBOS” by Alain Tixier at Wamba to introduce some of the outreach activities we are planning with local schools. Many kids and some parents, grand-parents, and grand-grand-parents joined! Everyone remembered "Madame Claudine" [-Claudine André] and knew about Lola ya Bonobo [sanctuary] but much less knew about bonobo behavior and this made lots of people laugh (as well as the sound of the film inaudible… except when the “mamans” at Lola were singing). Some key moments when everyone got excited: a scene with infant bonobos stamping on millipedes and for which all the kids went: “HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” for a long minute; and another scene shot at Wamba with bonobos of E1 group whom the trackers recognized immediately. That was fun and everyone seemed to have enjoyed. More soon…
Before leaving, a friend offered me the illustrated book “Fieldwork FAIL” by Jim Jourdane. I read it twice already (thanks Julie!) and this motivated me to share a few of ours so far. We hope the list won’t be too long… but after 5 months, we are afraid it will! “Fieldwork Fail [is] when things don’t go as planned [for scientists]”
Note: Toda is at Wamba to study why and how bonobo females emigrate from their natal group and Cecile investigates the link between hand-to-mouth behaviors and parasite infection in bonobos.
C: Went to the church on my first Sunday to get to know the local community. Not been able to tell the priest that I am an atheist and thus been asked to serve at the church on Sundays.
T: Used the machete to cut a vine and make our way to the forest. The vine was connected above with a node of dead branches that felt on my head and blocked the way.
C: Came back from a long day in the forest. Saw a bottle of water on the table (a luxury – because we usually boil water from the river). Took a big sip of it. Not water but local alcohol (~80%).
T: Waited for a juvenile female bonobo to finish urinating and leave before collecting her urine. Approached the crime scene with precautions and started sampling. Her mother stopped by and peed on myself ruining my sample collection.
C: Chased the bonobos for several hours before finally being able to see them well and record some data. This was without counting on sweat flies… which love to get inside human eyes.
C: Was doing bonobo observation while two guys pushing a bike passed between my focal subject and I. They were carrying a dead body to the next village.
T: Went to the river to fish with one of our tracker. Throw the line and waited. Waited. Waited... I forgot to attach weight at the end of the lure.
C: Got waken up by water dropping on me in the middle of the night. Realized our leaf roof is not waterproof. Put some plastics on top of my mosquito net and went back to sleep. Water kept dropping between the plastics and created a little water pond on my sleeping bag.
“Comic” scenes of everyday life at Wamba:
- Taking a shower (bucket of water) with a pig
- Trying to do your business while dancing to avoid ants
- Entering data while a goat is snoring or farting at the door
- Sundays = visit days = people bringing presents = live chicken and ducks under the table
- Writing this up while the cat is devouring my midday snack