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Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Kuanguka (To Fall)
The title refers to the leaves out here, but I kept it vague to allow me to lead into a quick story. That being that my wife, Shalini, was correct in thinking her husband might be a bit clumsy.
The best of my spills so far has involved falling into a ravine alongside some farming fields while I was hiking into town with Carson Murray. The ravine was about 6 feet deep and camouflaged with tall grass adjacent to the trail. After landing into water just above my ankles, I quickly grabbed the base of the tall grass and sprung myself back up just as quickly as I had fallen.
To my surprise, as soon as I was back on my feet I noticed a lady working in the fields with a machete in hand (what a great opportunity to measure my stress response). In my defense, it’s very difficult to always keep both feet on the ground. The trails can be steep and uneven at times and contain loose gravel.
But back to the title. It is currently the cold season (kipupwe), but the name strictly refers to the nights because the days are anything but cold. The season is also dry and slightly windy. Many leaves are beginning to fall from the trees and accumulate on the trails.
It’s a new experience for me to walk around in 80-degree weather and hear the crunching of crisp leaves. I am making the most of the fallen leaves: it can make searching for chimpanzees slightly easier. My line of sight is increasing, and I can also listen for the crunching of leaves as they travel through the forest.
I have yet to see any chimpanzees rake up a pile of leaves and then jump into them like I used to when I was younger, but it continues to be fascinating to watch the young chimpanzees play. Just the other day I was observing Siri, a 3-year-old male. At one point he was playing with Gimli, a 5-year-old male, when Gimli may have gotten a little too rough and Siri screamed. Siri’s older sister Samwise and mom Sandi were in the area feeding, and at the sounds of Siri’s scream they came to intervene. I was not surprised that Sandi responded to Siri’s distress but was impressed to see his older sister help out as well.
To add to the list of recent events, yesterday a group of us went into town to stock-up on food and supplies for the next month. Some of the essentials we purchased included oatmeal, peanut butter and crackers for breakfast, and a bottle of coke and a couple chocolate bars as special treats.
We also used this opportunity in town to try to satisfy our craving for pizza, stopping at one of the local restaurants that had it on the menu. However, as Anna Mosser pointed out, this is the first place I have been where what you can order is determined by if the electricity is currently working or not. Unfortunately for us, this was not one of those times. I was able to eat a tasty fish curry that was cooked over a kerosene stove. However, my mouth continues to salivate at the thought of a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.
Gombe Field Diaries
Lincoln Park Zoo is partnering with the Jane Goodall Institute to study and conserve chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, the site of Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking research. Our Gombe field diaries feature updates as scientists monitor chimpanzee health, study ape behavior and experience life in Gombe.
As director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lonsdorf leads Lincoln Park Zoo efforts in Gombe National Park.
Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.
An endocrinologist in the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, Santymire studies stress and reproduction in Gombe's chipmanzees.
A graduate student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, Matt is studying how levels of play in Gombe¹s chimpanzees influence stress, development and reproductive success.
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