Day one in the forest:
I’ve never been an early riser, but the anticipation of reuniting with the chimps (regardless of my awareness that they surely are never as excited to see me) always the edge off of that 5am wake-up call. I actually find myself looking forward to those brisk, dark mornings, swallowing as much coffee as I can while check my gear before heading out the door.
I know they’ve been in relatively large groups. All of the standard, staple females have been around. The big mammas, Outamba, and Lia, with their growing gaggles of juveniles. The boys have been telling me all about Lia- carrying the new baby on the front and the older one on her back- I’ve been dying to see it! Poor Lia has such a big belly in the first place. I can’t imagine how she might possibly fit both babies on her body without dragging one along the ground. She must be exhausted. And then little Leakey can’t be too happy about it either. It’s not exactly fair to make the two-and-a-half year-old walk everywhere.
I’m eager to see how grown-up little Thatcher has become now that she has a younger brother to play with and care for. All but one of the youngest babies from my first pilot season have little siblings now… I can’t wait to see how they each have changed with the addition of their mamma's new babies!
And then there are the two orphans, and two snared juveniles to check-in on. By the time I left last season Wenka was adjusting quite well to her amputated fingers, but Basuta’s injury is fresh. Losing a mother and your fingers in six-months is a tough order, even for a juvenile as big and confident as he is.
These are all the things I’m thinking about as we march up the road in the growing dawn light.
We met them on the road. Tuke displayed back and forth across Census as everyone woke and headed to a nearby mimusops for breakfast. Delta, the new female from last year, was around, and so was Omusisa, both of them in estrus. Oh boy, I thought, It’s gonna be a day. As we reached the tree, the foraging party grew bigger and bigger to include a handful of males, and another half a dozen females and all of their kids! I quickly realized that this was so full of so many kids that I couldn’t possibly follow them all today, or even over two days! It is my favorite kind of problem to have, and a rarer one that you might think, often times the day begins with just one or two kids around. More often than that, the one or two kids around are the one or two that I’ve followed more than any other. But today, opening day, I was faced with the perplexing question of how to choose which kid I should follow first?
I skipped over Utah because I knew Umbrella wouldn’t be too hard to find again. Stella too, for the same reason. Moon and Basuta were around but the both seemed a bit squirly, better to let them get used to me again. The O’s were all there, and all made good candidates because it can be impossible to get through them all on enough different days to get enough hours on each. Michelle had little Mucoso, who I hadn’t ever followed yet. How appropriate to follow Mucoso in a Ficus mucoso?!
But then my eyes rested on Thatcher. She’s been with me since the beginning. Her family doesn’t need too much time to get used to me. There’s little Tangawizi too! And my first follow of the season with my favorite little chimp? Don’t mind if I do…
This is my favorite kind of problem to have.
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This blog is a forum share my personal experiences as a field researcher and traveler.