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).

Day 32

One re-trapping of a Zanzibar galago proved to be this night’s trap record. I have a strong suspicion that this is the same guy that was re-trapped yesterday in the same trap as well. He apparently like the serving of palm wine and bananas before he goes to bed.

The morning was chorused by a two black and white colobus groups. The singing went on for half-an-hour and then one group spent some time in the trees near camp eating breakfast. A nice view for our breakfast as well.
Not a black and white colobus monkey!

A few things were running out in terms of food and supplies so a ride to town was called for. Car started, after a little more protests than the other day, but still. We started off at our stammis place for lunch and on the menu was a Sunday goat. That made us all quite satisfied but the car thought differently. Our first attempt to push-start it was unsuccessful so we had to push it back up the tiny slope again. This engaged a bunch of guys to help us and we got it started on the second try. We gave the guys some money for helping us but it was clearly not enough for them. I got the feeling we were on a verge being dragged into the same event that took place here last time we had lunch – a fist fight. However, we stood out ground and drove off and things cooled down.
"OK, I am out of here!"
- A Garnett's galago is being released.

Moving traps from an unsuccessful site to a new site was the activity for the afternoon. Coming to an end of our trip we also tried to bait with a new delicacy – jackfruit. Will this boost our capture rates even more? The evening gave us an indication with a new Zanzibar galago trapped and also a re-trapping of the same species. We have now caught eight different individuals of Zanzibar galago!

Day 31

Getting up at 3:45am to do another round of trap control and close the traps for the night. Guess what? In the trap that had caught 4 other Zanzibar’s we now had yet another trapped. We also had a re-trapping in the nearby tube trap which was released without further ado. We are starting to reach the numbers of caught individuals of Zanzibar galago equal to Rondo Dwarf Galagos caught in Ruvu South Forest Reserve, our first leg of this trip.

Baby-face Zanzibar Galago.

We got visitor this afternoon! Nike, Amani, Olivia and their friend Lisa came from Dar es Salaam to visit us for one night. The camp got revived and full of life! As with their visit at Ruvu South FR it was nice with a change of pace. After an early supper we all went for a walk. We spotted one Zanzibar galago and heard a few calls and then returned for a trap check. There was nothing to be found in the traps at this point. The late evening trap check, however, introduced a newbie to our sample collection – a Garnett’s galago. It had, as four other Zanzibar galagos before him, gone into the now aptly named “Golden Trap”. The handling and sampling of this fellow reminded us why we prefer the smaller galagos…
Andy and I hanging out in front of my tent.

Day 30

The morning was just about to be turned in early. No galagos in the traps until the last one were checked. Yeay! We had caught yet another one, a male Zanzibar galago this time. We have now reached a number of five galagos sampled, a number that provides relative power to the genetic analysis we are after. We continue our sampling quest for at least few more days though. Andy’s family, with Nike, Amani and Olivia are coming down to visit tomorrow.

Zanzibar Galago posing for pictures.

The afternoon was, as usual here quite hot – 38 degrees Centigrade. There are just so much things you can and want to do at a temperature like that. A group of black and white colobus monkeys spiced up with a Sykes’ monkey passed over our camp in the late afternoon providing us with some distraction and a lot of photo ops. Just before dusk we headed out to the surrounding woodland areas, a different kind of forest to the one we have our camp, to see what was there. Our trustworthy car (…) did actually start without manual effort – twice! The mechanics got it relatively fixed it seems! Once in the woodland and once dusk had fallen we spotted a Zanzibar galago and heard a Garnett’s galago, in other words the same species as here.
Black and white colobus monkey
(Colobus angolesnsis palliatus) hanging out above our camp.

After supper we had the usual trap control before bedtime. In the same trap as three times before we had a new visitor – a Zanzibar juvenile male! This trap is gold worth!

Day 29

The morning started at 3:30am. Would the previous evening’s trapping success continue? Yes, in a way it did! We had caught one Zanzibar female! We now have four galagos in two trapping days. We will soon have enough animals for our genetic samples. Fingers crossed the trapping spree continues!

Andy has a great tent with plent of room for two
people and one galago in a trap.

During Andy’s trip to Kiwiriri yesterday he got an assessment on the car with the problem of starting. Since they couldn’t fix it there and then he was promised that if he came back the day after (today) they would have another go at it. Said and done, Andy and I went into town to get the car fixed. They started working on it around 12pm and we sat down at a nearby lunch place to watch the final minutes of the Premier League game between QPR – Chelsea whilst waiting. Time passed on and on and on. So we went for lunch, witnessed a street fight and went back. When the clock was 6:50pm it was fixed. Betty was there now as well and accompanied us to camp. A long day of waiting was over but the breeze cooling the air in town made it all worthwhile.
Simon filled us in on his day’s activities and galago activity during our absence. Apparently the galagos had been very vocal and hopes were high for more trapping success. But alas, none were trapped in the evening.

Day 28

Up in the morning around 4am, sip a cup of cocoa and off to check on traps. With 14 traps up we started at the ones closest to camp and worked our way down to the farthest. Reaching the last Chardonneret trap and something is different. The trap is closed and, yes, we have a galago in it! It’s a male Zanzibar galago that appears to not give in without a fight but when in the tent for processing is the calmest one so far. What a great start with a catch on the premier night of trapping!

Our premier catchee at Nkumburuni FR -
 a male Zanzibar Galago

The days here are much hotter than any place we’ve been to before on this journey. Whilst preparing for the evening surveys, just at sunset by 6:30pm, both Simon and I praised the cool air that was coming in. Just for fun we then checked the temperature: 29 degrees Centigrade!

A footprint in the sand after a
spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta).

Andy had to take our cook Betty to town since her daughter had been caught ill. Betty, naturally stayed back with her daughter and we all hope things will turn out well!
Simon's examin the hyena print.

The trapping continued in a very nice manner. When checking the traps around 8:30pm we had caught two Zanzibar galagos - one male and one female! This turns out to be a very good site for captures!

Day 27

The night has been very promising. Our Zanzibar galagos have been calling just above our tents on several occasions. We definitely do not have to move site!  The morning survey starts around 5am. A morning chorus of assembling calls starts around 5:30am and continues for about 20 minutes. At least three groups seem to inhabit the near vicinity. This is great news!

The first picture of a Zanzibar galago from this forest.

Simon and I start the morning, after breakfast, to put the Chardonneret traps together. Meanwhile Andy, Betty and Mesa Umari (forest guard) take the car into Ikwiriri town to collect water. The traps are put together with cable tie which makes the process immensely much easier! With the water comes also a rooster so we get a non-veggie dinner tonight. And, believe it or not, it does not rain here!

Betty's preparing breakfast.

Late afternoon was spent find suitable trap sites and subsequently rig them there. There were a couple of places where their calls had been quite intensive the night before so those spots were prioritized. When dusk fell we heard our Zanzibar galagos call quite frequently and I also managed to film a sequence with one grooming itself high up in a tree. A chicken supper later we put our feet up for the night.

Day 26

Taking it nice and easy in the morning and getting our gear all packed in the car. The car is not of the larger kind, so to speak, so Simon has to share his backseat with a bunch of bags. They all fit perfectly. Driving around town a bit to fill up gas and change some money and all seems fine. Until we try to start the car after the last stop. It won’t start. Andy sees a friend’s car and gets him and some jumper cables hooked up. The starter engine begins to smoke. OK, so this is clearly not working so we try to push start it. It works! We are on the road again!

Andy's packing the car for departure to the  forest!

Next stop is not by choice. Andy gets pulled over for speeding. The cop even writes a receipt so it is a very official fine of 30000 schillings. Next stop is still not by choice. This time it’s a registration check. After fiddling around with all the papers and explaining that the reason we don’t have a sticker in the front window, as required, is that the sticker is at the “office”. They are fine with that and we are off again.

We finally reach the town where we head off from to the forest. First we have to pick up our cook and a guy from TFCG. Our cook turns up and it’s Betty. Betty was the cook at my first visit to Tanzania in 2007 when I together with Simon came here for three weeks. She recognize us and it’s great fun to see her again. Our TFCG guy is a no-show though. Betty knows where it is we are going so we head off without him.

After some time in the local village explaining our visit we head off for our camp site. We are now four people in our previously crowded car with me and Betty sharing Simon’s former seat. We go to pick up the forest guard that will show us to a good camp site. We then are five in the car with Simon sharing his front seat with the forest guard. Our vehicle is now a proper overcrowded African transport.

The evening begins and no calls of any kind. Are we in a place totally devoid of life? As the evening passes we start to hear our animals though. We might not have to shift forest after all!

onsdag 19 september 2012

Brief report

For the first time this trip I actually got Internet connection in the field! Albeit patchy and changing as the wind blows but still. I will not give full day to day account in the field but will post that when we get back to civilisation. We have settled in Ngurumburuni Forest Reserrve and had our first trap night last night. And it was a success! One Zanzibar galago was lured by our cunning trap and we got off to a flying start! And it will only get better!


söndag 16 september 2012

Day 25

A calm day where most of it were spent on family, relaxing and making the final plans for the departure tomorrow. All camp equipment, traps and dry food is packed in the car so all we have to do tomorrow is to ge our personal bags in. Hopefully we will be in an area that has mobile Internet reception but you never know. If not, I will make a day by day update of our field days when we return next week. Fingers crossed that the galagos go into our traps again!

Day 24

It is decided that we embark on the last leg of this journey on Monday, to the Nyumburuni Forest Reserve. The reserve is located just north of the Rufiji River approximately 100 km south of Dar es Salaam. The general area is the estimated southern limits of the Zanzibar galago's distribution and we hope to be able to confirm this and also capture a few individuals for genetic sampling.

The day was spent shopping for groceries and relaxing. Things are getting back in order after our last trip - at least all is dry again! One more day of taking it easy and then we are off to the forest again for 8-10 days of galago work!


Andy had time to play some football. UK - Japan 3-2.

fredag 14 september 2012

Day 23

Today's blog post is yet another reflection from Simon Bearder. Enjoy!

Simon here – reporting on the striking friendliness of everyone we meet in Africa. I am always aware of how peaceful and contented people seem to be. We pass through villages where the children gather to stare at us as we pass, or to wave and smile as they see our faces, and there never seems to be any fighting or screaming. Children seem not to cry here. No matter how crowded things are or how difficult the conditions there is a remarkable absence of angst. A good example is the ease with which our heavy equipment is transported to camp sites in the middle of the forest along steep and slippery paths. Men and women from the village will put a huge bag on the head and another under the arm and disappear at great speed, ducking below branches and climbing over rocks in bare feet while chatting away at the top of their voices, leaving us to struggle along behind, slipping, sliding and cursing! Even in the city people have time for you and they are invariably polite so that you become bathed in a sense of well being. Staying with Andy and Nike and their children Amani and Olivia is also a great boost as their comfortable home and fine hospitality ensure that we are revived for the final part of our research. Let’s hope that it does not continue to rain!
Simon's having breakfast at the beach in Dar es Salaam.

torsdag 13 september 2012

Day 22

Waking up after a nice long sleep and in a dry place really is highly underestimated! I got up for breakfast and we started to re-group for the last leg of the journey. When it will be we couldn’t yet decide. We will head off in 2-4 days. The early exit from Kambai FR gave us a couple of extra days and it feels as if I need a few extra days to recharge. We got loads of wet stuff that needs to be washed and dries and it would be nice to have a Therma-Rest that doesn’t deflate after a couple of hours…Helping us with these chores are the household helpers Monica and Dwight. They are gold worth!  It would also be nice to get those darn CITES export permits before we leave, or at least the promise of a potential that they might be ready when we come back. Andy’s working on that and we have all our fingers crossed!

Day 21

Raining all night made the decision to leave even better founded. Collecting the traps when we went for our last check and bringing them back to the car at 4:30am. This was the start of a long day. Rain tapered off a bit but was always present with longer or shorter showers. After breakfast we started to pack our camp up and loaded our car. It all went very smoothly, in spite of the weather conditions. It is a joy to work with experienced field staff!

Simon is a happy camper in spite of weather!
(Photo by Andrew Perkin)
After kicking off as much mud from the shoes as possible (about 1 kg per shoe) we started our journey. With 4-wheel drive on we slid down the first section of the road, still on it though, and the adventure begun! What once looked like a road, or forest path, was now more of a trail of red mud paste. Trying to cross a small creek on a log-based “bridge” with dirt on top the car started to slide towards one side of it. The fall wouldn’t have been long, just a meter or so, but it would’ve meant that the car would be lodged and impossible to get up without some serious winching or crane lifting it.  However, with a joint effort from Said, Habibu, Andy and a local guy’s pick ax Abeid managed to drive the car safely over.

Having some problems crossing a creek. Car seems to slide
to the right...(Photo by Andrew Perkin).
Next major obstacle was a part of the “road” that now had disintegrated into a field of mud. If you didn’t know that it was a road here you would never had guessed it by the look of it. After careful planning of which line to take, diff-lock on, Abeid went for it! Some sliding and a tail-end of the car making a long uncontrolled swivel we got out of that too. Not your ordinary car ride exactly but it got us from point A to B and it did that safely.

Said (right) seems to think: Is this a road I see in front of me?
Abeid thinks so and is running back to the car
(Photo by Andrew Perkin).
The rest of the road was actually road and the long journey to Dar es Salaam could continue. Returned to Andy’s house around 8pm. A long longed and needed shower made all the difference. What was that smell? Hmm, it’s the clothes I just wore…

Andy get some company by Simon's foot -
it was a long journey!

Day 20

The threat of rain that had been forewarned last evening turned reality. It started raining around 11pm and is still going now as I write this at 11am in the morning. Needless to say, no galago had entered our traps and the night job was to shut the traps and go back to bed. Only two more trap nights to go now. If this rain continues all day the chances of catching anything tonight are zilch. Also, if it continues to rain too long and much we might have to wait a day to leave for the river levels to drop since it will be too high to cross with our Land Cruiser. So in short, no more rain, please!

Things to do on a rainy day - watch
the kettle boil
 (Photo by Andrew Perkin).
The rain stopped at 1pm and it looked, at least temporarily, that we would get sun, or at least not rain, for the remainder of the day. We went out and baited the traps and hoped for the best. We were fresh out of bananas so it was a straight up palm wine fill up in the traps – real party traps! Night begun and the silence were deafening! The quietest evening so far! To pour salt in the wounds even more, it started to rain. With only one more possible night of trapping left, we decided it was just as good to leave prematurely and go tomorrow. The “roads” leading up to the main road to town was deteriorating quite quickly and getting very muddy. If we don’t leave in time we might be stuck here for a much longer time than intended.

Day 19

The night survey started, as usual, around 4:30am. On a positive side, we saw two Zanzibar galagos hanging in the vicinity of our traps and heard a few more calls. On the down side, none had gone in our traps and the night was relatively uneventful. Will we catch any galagos here? Well, time will tell but the chances look slim.

Andy's preparing a tube trap for the evening
(Photo by Simon Bearder).
Since we couldn’t decide what small galago species we saw in the lowland area in Mtai Forest Reserve we were keen to find out what it was. Some shopping was needed and our newly arrived TFCG volunteer, Habibu, had to pick up his bags in the nearby village, so Simon and I set off for Mtai again. We were dropped off by Abeid at the position were Andy and I spotted them last time. It was quiet, as usual around here, but we heard a few calls and saw some eyes of the small galago. Nothing conclusive though. Just when we stood up to go for a walk we heard an advertising call that settled it all – Zanzibar galago. A few seconds after the call we saw some eyes again but this time we managed to see where it went and were able to film the animal for 10-15 minutes. A successful off-shoot! Back at camp Andy’s evening had been calm and no galago had been caught in the traps. There had been a threat of rain with some short showers and that usually makes the galagos quiet and they don’t move around much.

Simon's preparing for the evening survey back at
Mtai Forest Reserve.

Day 18

All traps are up and will we get something first night? I am afraid we didn’t. The night survey and trap check was as quiet as the night before, even more quiet, at least for Simon and me. We did catch the space station passing in the sky, but otherwise no real activity. Andy, though, got some recordings indicating that the small galagos that are present, but in low frequencies, are the Zanzibar galagos. A relatively cold but clear morning came to an end. Better luck tonight.

Said is baking bread (Photo by
Simon Bearder).
Our cook, Said, baked us some marvelous bread today. It’s quite an amazing skill to be able to bake over an open fire. We were all very grateful! Evening surveys was very quiet. The number of calls heard of galagos could be counted on one hand. Andy and Simon saw one of our wanted briefly but they are not present in any high densities here. We are almost starting to despair.

Day 17

Starting the morning at 4am with a cup of hot chocolate served at the tent by Simon. It’s not raining anymore but it still drips from the canopy. Up on the road Andy heads to the left and Simon and I go to the right. Simon almost immediately spots a small galago heading down a tree. Great! Physical confirmation that something of a smaller character is here as well! We continue and see a Garnett’s galago, a Palm Civet and a Genet (exact species not known but see pictures of the common Genet (Genetta genetta) here). Not too shabby! Simon then hears a longer bout of a smaller galago’s call. His impression is that it is a Kenya Coast Galago calling. We hope to hear more but the rest of the morning is quiet. We just have to wait until the evening see.

Our camp at Kambai Forest Reserve
(Photo by Simon Bearder).
 The afternoon was spent assembling the traps. The Chardonneret traps, cage traps, do take some time to pull back together again but when Said, Abeid, plus all three of us made a joint effort it was pretty painless. Price to most esthetically assembly goes to Said. His skill goes way beyond superb field cooking.  All but two traps were then rigged and baited before darkness fell upon us at 6:45pm.

From left: Said, Abeid and I assembling Chardonneret traps
(Photo bt Andrew Perkin).
Joining Simon again, we didn’t see or hear anything. That’s not all true of course. We did see one Garnett’s galago and loads of fire flies. The latter does make the forest into a discotheque with their green and white lights floating around, very fascinating to watch. Back at camp we had a feast waiting. Earlier during the day we got a chicken delivered, donated to us by Patrick the farmer, and Said had now prepared it for dinner. Andy was not yet to be seen so we felt obliged to dig in before he came back. Just when we finished our supper Andy returns to camp. His evening had been more fortunate than ours, to say the least. He had recorded an advertising call (the telltale sign of a galago species) and taken photos of the caller. It does appear that the Zanzibar galago is in town!

The Zanzibar galago! (Photo by Andrew Perkin)

Day 16

Moved camp today. We are in search for the Zanzibar galago and it does not seem to live in this forest. Packed up all stuff and the porters arrived around 9:30am. Not so much hassle with their payments today since Abeid already had taken care of a set fee whilst in the village earlier that morning. We plan to go to a nearby forest in the Kambai Forest Reserve where Andy went 20 years back and recorded the presence of the Zanzibar galago.

Me and Said (on the roof of the car) packing the car at
Musi village.
Stopping at the village, Kwambili, nearest to the forest to meet their village council to alert them of our presence, Andy bumps into a guy that helped when he was here, 20 years ago! His name is Salim and he recognizes Andy immediately. Andy had helped him treat his elephantiasis and, according to Andy, has recovered very well. Salim accompany us and we set off for the forest.

From left: Patrick, friend of Patrick, Andy and Salim. the name
of the kids I don't know at our new camp in Kambai
 Forest Reserve (Photo by Simon Bearder).
Raining all afternoon and it keeps on doing that for the better part of the evening. Not good for galago research (they don’t call and don’t move much) and makes everything wet or damp (obviously). In the middle of the forest road we run into another of Andy’s friends – Patrick. Patrick runs a farm just nearby and he and his friends helps us locate a good camping spot. We find one near the road, near the creek and without ground cover. Perfect! It is also quite impressive to see how swift and efficient Patrick uses his panga (machete) to clear a path from the road to the camp.

I have accomplished the magnificent feet of folding my tent so that the wet and damp from Mtai FR have been introduced to the inside of the tent. Have to dry it out, the best I can, with toilet paper.  Well, a new temporary home is up and a fire is going. A great morale boost! We start the evening surveys and hear, almost immediately, an alarm call from a small galago! Is it a Zanzibar galago? We need more to go on before we can make that call (…) but it’s a great sign that a small galago species us here! The evening survey is otherwise very calm and quiet. We see a couple of Garnett’s galago but nothing more. Return for supper and then it’s bedtime.

Day 15

No surveys during the night. We all needed the rest and a full night’s sleep was necessary. No galagos heard, except the odd Garnett's galago and perhaps a Mountain Dwarf Galago (Galagoides orinus). No Zanzibar galago. We decide to make surveys tonight down by the village and see if we can find them there. If so, we move camp there, if not, we have to move forest.

Canopy picture from our camp at Mtai Forest Reserve
(Photo by Simon Bearder).

Evening started to come so we prepared for the evening surveys. Simon went up the hill and I and Andy and local guide went down to scout the forests between the villages following the road. Down by the foot of the mountain we heard or saw nothing, at first. Then Andy spotted something. A small galago. We like small galagos. The observation was too brief to reveal the species but I went in and spotted it again. Size wise, I thought it was a litter bit bigger than the Zanzibar galago, the one we expected to see. When saw its face it had dark eye-rings and more dark in its face not found in Zanzibar galago. I asked Andy and he said that the Kenya Coast Galago (Galagoides cocos) has that kind of facial marking. So perhaps we have gotten to the most southern limit of this species instead of the most northern limit of the Zanzibar galago.

Said's preparing food at the camp in Mtai Forest Reserve
(Photo by Andrew Perkin).
Back late at camp, Simon hadn't returned. Andy and local guide went to see if they could find him. After 20 minutes or so they returned with Simon, he had gotten lost. Not by much but still. He had heard and recorded the calls of the Mountain Dwarf Galago and was very pleased.

Fruits of the forest
(Photo by Simon Bearder).

Tomorrow we move camp. Probably just to the foot of the hill. Now one of the rare full night’s sleep await.

Day 14

We left the hotel around 8:30am to go for some vegetable shopping at the market in Tanga. Found what we were looking for and headed off for Mtai Forest Reserve. Still a bit uncertain where exactly to go we went to the village Maremba and met with the forest officer. Out options were to either go high up or descend or to the foot of the mountain and go up. We opted for the first one.
Abeid and Andy discussing shopping at the market in Tanga,
After a few wrong turns we ended up at the village where we intended to start our trek down into the forest. Whilst there we got informed by the guy set to help us that it was a very long and hard walk and that we'd better start from the foot of the mountain. Oh well, we just had to turn around then.
Said is choosing his vegetables at the
 market in Tanga.
After even more wrong turns and bumpy paths we arrived at the village that was going to be our start point. We needed porters to help out with all our gear so the bargaining begins. Our driver, Abeid, was the main negotiator for us and after a looooot of discussion we got to an agreement and off we were. The forest was magnificent! Huge trees and a lot of green! We settled at a spot near the Musi river and the night fell. Finally a camp! After a whole day of driving and discussions it was quite the relief. One snag though, we couldn' hear any galagos...
Said (yellow shirt center) and Abeid (suglasses on head leaning
 on car) are dividing the camping gear amongst the hired
 porters at Musi village (Photo by Andrew Perkin).

tisdag 4 september 2012

Day 13

Getting up early in the morning and am ready for take off. Our destination is Mtai Forest Reserve. We get picked up by Abeid, our driver from TFCG, in a big Toyota Land Cruiser. Load our equipment and we are on our way! We stop to pick up Said, our cook from the last trip, who also will join us on this trip. Roads are good all the way up north so the trip goes very smoothly. The plan is to go Tanga, the nearest big town, get our permits to enter the forest, stay the night and head off for the forest in the morning.

Abeid packing our car in Dar.

We arrive at park head quarters at 2pm and Andy meets and greets with some familiar faces. Then the easy part is over. The park offices that is supsed to sign the permits for us after we paid our fees starts to interpret the rules in a sligtly different way to all of us. Since we are camping in the forest they want us to pay an extra fee, addtionally to the $10/day/person that we already are paying, of $35/day/person. Hmm, this is an impossible fee, set aside that it is not abiding to their guidelines.mwe haggle along and stand our ground and eventually, after we say that we would leave and not do the research, they give in. So, at 5pm we are out of there with our precious piece of paper.

Simon bides his time waiting for the permit.

The night will be spent at the hotel Panori, which is situated near the beach in Tanga. A very nice place indeed, and we seem to be one of the very few customers here as well. So peace and quiet and some beers by the ocean. A good start to this leg of the trip as well! Loving the fact that the iPad Internet connection works! Hmm, but the image upload feature doesn't seem work. Will have to add images later on then.


Andy can finally relax a bit after a long journey and prying out our permit for working in the forest.

Toilet at our room didn't work so we had to swap rooms. And guess what? For a short while I had 3G connection and could upload images! Let's see ow long that works...


måndag 3 september 2012

Day 12

I have a guest blogger today - Simon Bearder! We are between fieldsites at the moment, re-charging and re-supplying in Dar es Salaam at Andy's house. Enjoy!

Simon at a market in Kongowe.
Simon here – reporting on the delights of trying to capture animals without causing them any harm. We now have a number of individuals of the three bushbaby species and a palm civet who have learned that they can get a free meal without too much hassle, so we keep re-trapping them. They simply get released and photographed as they jump away. The palm civet has huge soft fleshy pink pads on the hands and feet that seem to grip onto anything and make them very agile in the trees. We set up a camera trap opposite one of the live traps to record how they enter. This uses infra-red light and makes only the faintest of sounds, but a tiny rondo bushbaby was obviously aware that it was there. The camera showed a sequence of shots of it approaching the trap and then staring at the camera and approaching it to look into the lens!