Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May news

It's been almost a month now that I've been back at Fongoli, after a visit to the U.S., and there have been some exciting events that have occurred here since I've been back! One of these is that Tia is a mother for the first time! Late one evening early in May I was following Lupin, an adult male, who had already begun making his nest when he heard another party and went to meet them right before dark. I noticed a mother that I did not recognize - it turned out to be Tia with her first infant! She has been lying low in general and actually wasn't seen again after that day and the following until yesterday when 32 of the 34 community members were moving around as one large party. We have yet to see whether it is a male or female, but names have already been picked out! Tia appears to be a good mother, and she has been very quick to move out of the way of any adult male action - at the first signs of a display (adult males at Fongoli often 'leaf-clip' at the beginning of their displays) she moves away and up a tree. The baby is hanging on, looking around and altogether seems to be doing well also. Tia, along with Tumbo and Nickel, is also one of the most prolific bushbaby hunters at Fongoli, so it will be interesting to track her infant and see what develops on that front. Nickel's first baby, Teva (both of them pictured here to the left - photo by M. Gaspersic) are doing well - Teva is over a year old now and is moving independently for short distances, playing with other youngsters (or being played with, more accurately), and riding on Nickel's back a lot (rather than her belly, as very young immatures do). She is also one we will be keeping an eye on regarding the hunting front...

On that subject, we have seen two successful bushbaby hunts within the course of one week, although one did not go as planned at all! Bo (an adolescent male) first made and used a tool to jab into a tree cavity that he subsequently abandoned. As Frito (a juvenile male) ascended the tree, a bushbaby apparently left the cavity, and both Bo and Frito began to try and chase it down as it leaped into an adjacent tree. Frito ended up with it, although Bandit (adult male) did try to take it from him at one point. After screaming a bit, it appears he was able to keep it. We were too intent on observing Bo make and use another tool in an adjacent tree, which may sound futile - however, this past fall the observation was made of two chimps successfuly hunting bushbabies in trees that were less than 10 meters apart! In this case, though, Bo was not successful, although his tool-making skills appeared impressive, and we were even able to record that he trimmed the tip of this second tool (the first tool was abandoned in the tree cavity, and I was not able to get it).

A few days ago, we were able to observe another successful hunting bout - this time Tumbo, a young adult female (and the most prolific as well as successful Fongoli hunter). We caught her in mid-bout, which is often the case - I am cued in by the sounds of the tool being jabbed into the hollow cavity. After she changed positions, actually pushing Mike (juvenile/adolescent male) out of the way, she jabbed and jabbed until finally grabbing a bushbaby that appeared to be either coming out of the cavity or pulled out partly with her tool. Jumkin (adolescent male) who also had been watching her from an adjacent branch and Mike both attempted to hunt the same cavity. Mike used Tumbo's tool, while Jumkin made 4 of his own but then abandoned them, climbed down and retrieved Tumbo's to use hers - neither was successful. Again, this effort to hunt the same cavity might seem futile, but I have witnessed the alpha male look into a hole again after just retrieving a bushbaby from it, and I have seen Farafara with two bushbabies at one time!

In other news, I was finally able to see the chimps encounter patas monkeys - something I've been waiting years for! In this case, the chimps (as well as myself) did not see the patas monkeys come up to the waterhole they frequent at Djendji during the dry season. When they did notice them, they warning-barked, and the patas fled! These were a young adult male I thought was about 5 years of age and a younger male, between 3 and 5 years. One chimp took off after them - David, an adolescent - although I'm not sure whether this was to try and catch them (good luck!) or just to conform to his usual adolescence bravado...

It is still hot here - supposed to be over 105 Fahrenheit tomorrow, with humidity over 50%...and the chimps are still frequenting the caves some. Two days ago, Farafa escaped the heat by relaxing in Sakoto cave - she heard me walk up overhead, peeked out and went back in!

We are continuing to work to reduce the woodland clearing by sheep herders in the area, but it is slow going...more (and hopefully positive) news on that front soon!

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