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Friday, July 17, 2009
Wali Leo (Rice Day)
What the title basically means is that today was a good day. I have developed this term after chatting with Alex, another chimpanzee researcher from Ugala. He explained that eating ugali (a cornmeal dish) makes rice taste better. Although I still need to try ugali, I could relate to that because the tough days in the forest definitely make me appreciate the better days.
The day before I spent about 13 hours in the forest but only collected about two hours of behavioral observations. That is a good example of an ugali day. We covered a great distance and came near the border of the neighboring community of chimpanzees. Along the way, we saw a Tanzanian walking back into the park after visiting a nearby village. He was wearing a black and white striped shirt (similar to a referee), so I made the clever observation to Lisa, another researcher at Gombe, that he would likely call a penalty on us for “traveling.”
The “wali leo” is because today I observed Bahati (mom) and Baroza (4-year-old son), and as soon as we found them at 10, they were kind enough to deposit “samples” to collect. We use the fecal samples to extract hormones, such as cortisol, to examine levels of stress. Then, unlike the previous day, the group today did not travel too much or too fast, so I was able to collect six hours of behavioral observations.
During that time, Baroza played so much that I had to change the battery on my video camera. He played with chimpanzees of all sizes, including numerous adults such as Titan and Pax. What was interesting to me as well is that Baroza seemed to really enjoy playing with Gimli (5-year-old male). Their favorite “game” seemed to be a game of keep-away. One individual would grab a stick and the other individual would chase him to try and get it. It was very entertaining to watch, and I am sure that the videotape will be equally challenging to score to examine any potential benefits from playing.
The day ended on a positive note because we watched Bahati and Baroza nest, which cuts down on searching time, as I know right where to find them tomorrow. Of course, if I’m comparing it to the food I am eating out here, the ultimate day would be a chapthi day!
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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