tisdag 30 oktober 2012

New photos are up!

I have just updated the project website with photos from the trip. Some has already been featured here on the blog but quite a few are "new" ones. Visit the site and have fun!

tisdag 23 oktober 2012

Grooming claw

A photo of an Otolemur garnetti (Garnett's Galago) hand and it's grooming claw made it to National Geographic's website! Visit their gallery of "Scary Explorer Finds" to see it! This particular individual was trapped by Andy and me in the Kiwengwa Forest, Zanzibar, in 2011.


fredag 28 september 2012

Day 37 - My last day in Tanzania

This trip has come to an end. I am leaving Tanzania in a few hours after some five weeks conducting field research. The project will continue into its next phase which includes anaylsis of morphological and biogeographical data collected, potentially collect some more samples via museum fellow researchers, sequence our gentic samples and then try to make sense out of that. The blog will be kept alive with posts as things progress but it won't be a day to day update.

To conclude our trip I have asked Simon to give his final remarks. Enjoy!

Simon here with some reflections on our record-breaking achievements and the importance of team work as we complete the best part of a month living in small tents in three hot and humid forests. Why record breaking? We went from catching one dwarf galago during the last field trip to Zanzibar, to catching up to 13 in two of the three sites during this trip. This gives us a lot of genetic material for DNA sequencing and a number of potential analyses in the laboratory which will form the second part of our study. All this was made possible by impressive teamwork organized by Johan and Andy. Andy deals with the logistics and red tape and he has encyclopedic knowledge of Tanzania and its wildlife. He is the only one of us that speaks Swahili. Johan is our equipment guru and technical guy, chief film maker with his 35 x optical zoom video camcorder and lighting system. He is also co-inventor of some cunning new traps, as well as general administrator and accountant. I try to fill any gaps by helping with trapping, photography and tape recording, and getting everyone awake in the middle of the night with cups of hot chocolate. We have been supported at each site by a local guide, a cook and sometimes by a driver for the vehicle or a conservation volunteer. But it is the background support of family, friends and colleagues that makes it all possible, particularly Nike and the children who have hosted us and entertained us during our breaks between sites. So many thanks to all. Did it seem like hard work? Not at all – more like a holiday – once we got use to the extreme heat which reached 43 degrees at Ngumburuni! Here’s to the next trip!


torsdag 27 september 2012

Day 36

After a full night's sleep it was very nice just to take it easy today. Some souvenir shopping, lunch and coffee and rounding off with a dinner facing the ocean during sunset felt quite nice. Over and all this field survey has been a success in my eyes. The only big caveat is that we wasn't able to get an export permit for our samples. It will take a little more effort and money to get that permit and ship the samples, but we are confident that it will happen in a not too long ahead future. Tomorrow Simon will share his thoughts on this journey so stay tuned!

Day 35

Waking up after a few hours sleep at 1am, some hot chocolate and then off for the next to last control of traps. Yes, this was more like it! One new trapping of a Garnett’s and of a Zanzibar galago! Adding on to that was a mouse, two Zanzibar and one Garnett’s galago re-trapping. Processing of the new animals took its time and we were ready just 45 minutes before it was time to go for another round. Obviously it was not any point in going to sleep but a quick dozing off was in place. The last round ended with one mouse only. Our track record of trapping in this forest had been outstanding and we all felt well ad ease with this last leg of our journey.

The boys and their traps!

Camp was dissembled. Said our goodbyes and thanks to Mesa, the forest guard, and Betty our cook, for their diligent work and assistance over these last 10 days and headed off for Dar es Salaam. All that remains on this section of this project is a piece of paper from CITES allowing us to export the samples we collected. Unfortunately, we did not hear nor was able to get in touch with the Wildlife Department that issues these permits. It looks as we will have to implement our plan B or C to make this vital part of the project reality.
A Lesser Pouch Rat (Beamys hindei) making the most of its
time of freedomwith one jackfruit seed in each cheek pouch.
Back at Dar we had a very nice lunch at my favorite place here – Epi D’Or. Grabbing a beer in the sunset with a view over the Indian Ocean was the ultimate way to end this last field day. Simon was really knackered and was lying face down on his bed, one led sticking out as if he had fallen asleep on his way to bed, and we didn’t have the heart to wake him for the beer. Somehow I don’t think he minds.

Day 34

The morning continued pretty much in the same fashion as the evening had ended: one new Garnett’s and one new Zanzibar galago plus two re-trappings of one of each. The new record for trapped animals in one night is now 10! Not to mention the trapped mouse! Our camera trap, which is aptly positioned by the "Golden Trap2, also showed interest in the trap by a gecko and a mouse. An interesting note from the camera trap is that the Garnett’s galago went straight for the half coconut shell with pombe (palm wine) before anything else, before even getting in. A very clever animal!
"They serve drinks and all!"
Garnett's galago's first choice of trap bait is very clear!
After another balmy (…) day it was time for the last evening of trapping. We decided to get up one more time during the night for trap checking since we’ve been so successful the other night. It might be so that we can catch even more if we empty the traps yet another time. The first tour of the traps was not indicating a new record though. Nothing caught, well, no primates at least. A Tomahawk trap that we placed on the ground was visited by a Four-toed Elephant Shrew. We did no more than take some pictures of it and then released it. Hope the 1 o’clock morning check has more than this to show for it!

Day 33

Three re-trapped Zanzibar galagos and one new Garnett’s galago. That’s the tally for the morning! If this was due to the jackfruit, moon phase, new trap position or just pure luck we never know. It was, however, the most successful trap results we had so far on this journey. Two more nights of trapping remains and it will be very exciting to see if we will keep up with these high trapping figures! What also is to come are two more days of +35 degrees Centigrade days to endure…

Some similarities, don't you think?

A very calm and balmy afternoon only interrupted by a visit from the village chairman and the village secretary. We showed our pictures and talked about the forest and species of the forest. They were pleased that we were doing what we were set out to. The village got a donation of 50000 schillings from us for allowing us to do our research in their forest. During the late afternoon we moved a couple of traps to an area were a group of Zanzibar galagos have been heard to call in the previous mornings and did the normal baiting of all the traps. Was it going to be a more successful trapping evening than the night before?
Home from home.
The trapping started out well. We got a re-capture of a Zanzibar galago and a new visitor in the guise of a Garnett’s galago. After supper it all picked up. A total of four more Zanzibar galago re-traps had been made! Our tally was now up to six trappings in just about three hours! Where was this to end?
Our pet Wahlberg's Snake-eyed Skink (Panaspis walbergii).