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Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Naitwa Matthew (I am called Matthew)
I am doing my best to completely immerse myself in Tanzanian culture. Whenever I am in camp or town I first attempt to speak Swahili to any Tanzanian (regardless of whether the other person speaks English) and only revert to English as a last resort.
Oddly enough, it seems that it easier for Tanzanians to pronounce Matthew as opposed to Matt. But the phrase in the title is one I have come to use very often. It is common to be referred to as Mzungu (white person) around here so I have started to politely respond “Naitwa Matthew.” It’s a great icebreaker especially for interacting with the children in camp. Like any kid, though, I find it is easy to engage in a quick game of chase/tag with the children here regardless of any language barrier.
Public outreach is extremely important to me, and I recently had an opportunity to visit Ujiji secondary school with Lisa, another researcher. We gave a presentation to the students on general chimpanzee biology and our research. The children had never seen chimpanzees in the wild before, so they were extremely interested in seeing pictures and video of the chimpanzees.
We presented to about 40 students and the presentation was a complete success. The students asked many questions following our presentation, and one female student even expressed a desire to study chimpanzees. I definitely look forward to my continued involvement with Jane Goodall Institute Roots and Shoots to present my research to other students in the Gombe area.
I am trying to promote the exchange of culture in both directions. Last night, I invited Magombe, my field assistant, and his wife to watch Iron Man (Chuma ya Mtu). Since neither of them speaks much English, I translated the basic plot to them as they followed along. This was done, of course, with the help of the dictionary. While I have learned the various forest words associated with chimpanzees, I have not spent much time learning words like super hero or explosion.
Regarding chimpanzee news, my research continues to go well, and this past month I was able to collect a record amount of behavioral observations and fecal samples (a record for myself, that is). Additionally, since I have been observing chimpanzees for four months now, I have been able to watch the infants progress and develop. Recently, I observed Safi, an 11-month-old female, ride on Schweini’s (her mother) back for the first time. Infants will ride on their mother’s stomachs until about 6–12 months of age and then begin riding on their mother’s backs. Up until about a week ago I would only see Safi ride on Schweini’s stomach or make a comical attempt to ride partially hanging on Schweini’s side as if she was trying to climb up. Now, she’s reached the next stage.
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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