Humans of Wamba #2. Lokemba, 26, Ornella (his wife), 22, and their two sons: Bertholin (4) and Chico (1). Lokemba is the youngest worker of the Wamba Committee for Bonobo Research (WCBR). Like his father (Batsindelia –now retired), Lokemba aspires to become a bonobo tracker and follows the oldest habituated group of wild bonobos in the world: Kamekake (also known as E1 after civil war). While Lokemba is in the forest, Ornella teaches at the primary school in Yayenge –one of the six localities of Wamba. Before joining WCBR, Lokemba was a secondary school teacher. He met Ornella in 2013 while they were both studying Pedagogy (at different class levels) in a locality between their two natal villages. Then, one year, one goat, one “pagne” (traditional tissue used as a dress), three pots and 15,000 FC later, he got to marry her. When on the way back from the forest, I asked Lokemba how does he see their future, he said that they may have one or two more children, no more (–rare for here; they were laughing when I told them that a family with 3 kids in France is considered as “a big family”) and aim to evolve professionally as an established teacher (only after one or two decades of work, teachers can get a salary from the government) and a bonobo tracker.
Remember the sneezing pandemic with its popular “pick-lick” behavior two months ago? Well, this time, we got the coughing pandemic with its “spit-and-swallow” (-you’re welcome) associated behavior; a pandemic not only touching the bonobos but half the village as well, including kids, goats and pigs. (Pretty weird to wake up with goats coughing at your window…) As for the bonobos, if we relied only on our ears, one may think some hidden grandpas have invaded the forest. All individuals of Kamekake seem to be touched (while P-group remains untouched so far); some also having a runny nose… so, “pick-lick” is back! Unfortunately, the weather does not favor a quick recovery as we have experienced some harsh rain over the past few days. Then, the group does not range much and mainly rest or at least, the party we are following as, interestingly, they have split into several small parties. This makes me wonder: how long these kinds of symptoms last without the use of medicine, or do they treat themselves with some plants containing secondary compounds (-haven’t noticed yet); and last but not least who was the first host… Cheers from the forest!
As we are now entering the last bit of “crouching-jumping-falling-running-sweating”, I thought some Fieldwork FAIL updates were necessary (-all of this for ultimate Fieldwork SUCCESS of course!):
C: Trying to do bonobo observations while you have Giardiasis symptoms. Not a good idea. I skip the details.
T: Collecting urine sample from a juvenile female –that same juvenile female who pooped on my head while I was collecting. And I had removed my helmet to do so.
C: Fell (as usual). Tried to receipt myself by catching a vine before hitting the ground. The vine had big spikes. #holyhands
T: The bonobos crossed the river from above. We did via some log of wood on water but could not find the bonobos. We were crossing back when we heard them still on the other side. I turned back trying to keep balance. The log of wood cracked and… PLOUF!
C: I didn’t understand why the trackers showed that much precaution every time we passed a “yuku” (forest wasp) nest. Now I do. #pumpkinface
T: Removed my boots to cross the river. Put them back on. Another river crossing: looked feasible. It wasn’t. Fell and got ‘swampy’ feet for the rest of the day.
C: 5am. Not caffeinated enough. Used the same forest path as thousands of army ants. Ran, jumped, ran, jumped, ran. Woke up.
C: The bonobos were resting. I removed my helmet, started a sort of head massage and got lost in my thoughts. An adolescent female silently positioned herself 2m above my head and delivered a big splash of urine!
And THE Palm goes to Okamura (2017) [-sorry, I’ve heard of that one]:
Wearing a blue [“YMCA”] helmet to protect myself from falling branches. Not protecting me from sexually-aroused adolescent (bonobo) females who seem to think it makes me damn attractive.
PS: Our main toilets got wiped out during the last storm so no one can get in -including the goats...
Hoshi (from Kamekake’s group) gave birth recently and we were waiting a bit before to announce The News. The tradition at Wamba is to name bonobos with the same first letter as the mother. The infant has already resisted several strong rains, is very vocal, quite hairy and promised to be a tough cookie, so we decided to name her (or him) Himani (after a promising female primatologist friend from the Himalayas). I proposed Honda or Hans as alternatives if it’s a male but it didn’t get the unanimity –sorry guys. So, welcome to the world Himani! And +1 for bonobo world's population! Yeaaaaah! PS: In other news, two weeks ago, we screened Planet Earth Season II, Episode 1 (the famous BBC documentary series narrated by Sir David Attenborough) with the epic scene of baby marine iguanas being chased by snakes on the beach. This was worth any football game I have ever watched in Africa so far. Hundreds of people gathered in our yard to support and encourage the baby iguanas. The snakes (“nyoka” in Lingala) were definitely the bad guys. Then, by the end of the scene… GOAAAAAAAAL!!! The baby iguanas reached safety on top of a cliff, everyone applauded and yoo-hoo-d together, arms up in the air as a sign of Victory... Cheers from the forest!