Camp – Day 4

Posted on March 11, 2012


I awoke this morning to the sound of the chimps hooting from the forest. The apes start to stir around 0500/0530. I rolled over and covered my head with my pillow; it had been difficult night’s sleep. The racket from the forest had my full attention for most of the night. By the time I awoke the chimps were still calling, they sounded nearby; but I never expected to see one crossing the lawn in front of the water container.

After a quick breakfast of oats mixed with water I had a meeting with Geoffrey and two field assistants about how I would go about collecting data. With a plan hatched, I then proceeded into the forest for a reckie with Moses. He was no stranger to me as I had filmed him and another man, Dominic, the last time I was in Budongo. He is part of the snare patrol team and knows the forest both on and off grid like the back of this hand.  His English is impressive too and he has started to teach me Swahili after a lot of badgering. I’m beginning to learn small sentences. I hope by the end of the two months I will be able to converse, Akuna ma nayno (no problem).


Moses at an illegal pit-saw

Moses at an illegal pit-saw

The ground has become very dry, and a carpet of fallen leaves and twigs makes it impossible to walk silently along the cut grid (transect) lines. Our sound echoes through the forest and the animals hear us long before we have chance to glimpse them. During our hike up to the remotes part of the grid we spotted from a distance, Blue moneys; black and white Colobus monkeys; we heard the yelping of baboons and we were graced with the presence of one chimp, feeding high in the tree tops.

The terrain becomes tougher to negotiate off grid and I was smacked in the face a number of times by branches and vines as Moses eased his way through the undergrowth. There were many fallen logs, all sizeable. Moses took me to a few areas where pit-saws had illegally felled Cordia millenii. I was astounded by the size of these trees. They are incredibly tall; some at least 40metres high. The loggers had cut many of them above the buttress (the lower part of the tree trunk that curves up, almost like outside arteries). The reason Moses told me, is so that the circumference of the log is as round as possible to make it easier to roll up planks and onto trucks for transportation. But not all the trees have buttresses and those without are butchered and left with short stumps.

By the time we got back to camp it was late afternoon. I was soaked through; dehydrated and tired. I am definitely going to have to up my game if I am to cope in this environment.