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Monday, June 14, 2010
Nilirudi Gombe (I Have Returned to Gombe)
I have returned to Gombe and am now fully settled back into the forest. It was quite the journey to get here too. I arrived safely in Dar es Salaam but my flight with Air Tanzania to Kigoma (the city closest to Gombe) was delayed for a couple days due to some required plane maintenance.
Lucky for me, the Gombe veterinarian, Iddi, and his assistant, Juma, had flown from Chicago two days prior and were waiting in Dar as well. I had hoped to begin work with the chimpanzees as soon as possible, but I took full advantage of the break and was shown around the city by Iddi and Juma.
I had a chance to visit the University of Dar es Salaam and was very impressed with the university. The campus was very large and green, and it was even equipped with wifi in different areas. I was told that there were a few troops of vervet monkeys that lived in the campus forest and hoped to begin practicing data collection on primates. But alas, no sightings occurred.
Another field trip due to our non-field situation was to the Dar es Salaam zoo. There was an impressive display of local fauna, both wild and domestic. Iddi explained to me how the zoo felt it was important to educate people about the different local breeds of chickens and other domestic wildlife as well as lions, monkeys and other popular African animals. I thought maybe this time I would be able to practice data collection on chimpanzees, but no such luck, I would have to wait until I returned to Gombe.
When I finally got there, I learned that following chimpanzees is much like riding a bike (although the combination probably wouldn’t be the best in the forest). I was worried I would have trouble identifying the chimpanzees, especially the infants. However, for the most part everyone looks the same; the only difference is the kids got a little bit bigger.
Along with their physical traits, their personalities seem unchanged. Moms that were overprotective last year are still overprotective, and older infants that nurse too much for their size are still acting like big babies. But best of all, one thing that hasn’t changed is that the chimpanzees continue to amaze me on a routine basis while I’m in the forest.
After a recent rain, winged termites (kumbi kumbi) were flying around the forest. A previous researcher described these insects as butter with wings, and the chimpanzees took full advantage of the flying feast, eating up as many as they could get their hands on. I was brave enough to try one but was not overly impressed. One of my favorite sights, though, was to see a swarm of kumbi kumbi high up at the top of a tree, with chimpanzees snatching the insects out of the air as they dangled from the top limb.
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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