Thursday, July 1, 2010
One of the ways we can understand the impact of parasites and bacteria on chimpanzee health is to sample the water sources in their habitat. So, for the last two days we have been conducting water sampling of the main streams in the park. This is actually quite a bit easier than following chimpanzees because you can set your own pace!
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
After three days of travel from the U.S., I have finally reached Kigoma, Tanzania, which is the last stop before we take a two-hour boat ride to Gombe National Park. I am accompanied on this trip by Dr. Tom Gillespie and Michele Parsons from Emory University, and we are here to start a new project on bacterial sampling in chimpanzees.
This type of research takes a LOT more supplies than we have previously ever brought to Gombe, so altogether we had 13 pieces of luggage that we had to take on a small in-country plane and load onto a small research boat. We ended up having to borrow a bigger boat in the end!
But now we’re here and getting settled and organized for this new research direction. More later as we progress…
Monday, June 14, 2010
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.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
In the field I process fecal samples collected from Gombe chimpanzees. My role in the Gombe Ecosystem Health Project is to collect the samples, using non-invasive methods, and use field equipment to extract the hormones. I package the extracted hormones and ship them to endocrinologist Rachel Santymire at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Gombe sometimes feels like those gift packages where you can tell which month it is by which fruit you receive in the mail. Following chimpanzees here means that you’re also following whatever fruit is ripe at the time. As the seasons change, the chimpanzees switch to a different fruit as their main food. When I arrived in November, it was mostly mabungo makubwa. Right now, we’re nearing the end of the budyakende, shown in the photo below.
They’re yellow-orange when ripe and quite delicious. Unfortunately, the edible part is small and mostly water, which tends to decrease party size for the chimpanzees. They stay in smaller groups, and females in particular spread out to make sure they can get enough food for themselves. This can make finding individuals frustrating; there are days when Amri and I have searched for over 10 hours without hearing a single call.
In addition to impacting the size of the parties, the abundance of specific fruits in certain valleys draws more individuals to these parts of the park. For instance, the chimpanzees would practically race through Kidihi Valley during the long rains because it lacked food to hold their interest. Now, with budyakende having ripened, they’ll stay for hours at a time, foraging and moving quickly to the next patch when they can’t find any more.
Unfortunately, my targets spending more time in Kidihi also means I have to contend with vines that have far more thorns than those of other valleys. Budyakende has come to be synonymous in my mind with needing Neosporin when I get home! But soon enough, a new fruit will ripen, and I’ll have a whole different set of obstacles to grapple with. I can only hope they’ll be a little less painful!
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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