African Grey Parrots in the wild!

During one of the last days of my fieldwork time on Bioko Island, a coworker and I were lucky enough to stumble upon two wild grey african parrots just hanging out in a tree. They were more than happy to chirp away for us; it was amazing to see them in the wild and not in a cage at a pet store.

On the last day of our time in the rainforest, we observed huge flocks of the parrots flying south down the beaches. Not only was I not aware that they could fly longer distances, but some groups were even flying out over the ocean. The next morning, we once again saw them flying overhead, but this time they were flying north. Who knows what was going on there!

Anyway…enjoy nature´s soundtrack!



Turtles and things.

So I have to admit that I never got to see any turtles while I was at Bioko; they were coming up onto the beaches to lay their eggs at night, but occasionally, one would still be out of water during the early morning hours.

A coworker and friend of mine got some short videos of one such encounter!



Hello from South Africa :-)

Hello people of the blogosphere!

Just an update on how my life is going. I got to South Africa a few days ago and have settled in nicely at the research outpost on the Loskop Dam Reserve, where I’m working as an assistant for a study on the local vervet monkey population.

Living on the reserve is pretty freakin’ cool, if I say so myself. As researchers, we get to visit off-limits areas of the reserve, which includes hiking off the beaten path (well, there are beaten paths…well-trodden animal paths) and driving on service roads. The whole area looks amazingly beautiful; red, rolling hills sporadically dotted with shrubs and trees.

Driving down the road we see so much game; giraffes, zebra, antelopes, baboons, monkeys, wildebeests, and a lot of other animals I don’t even know yet. Hiking through the undergrowth is amazing; especially when I realized that I was standing in the middle of a dried out Rhino mud pit. If you must know, I totally freaked out when I saw my first giraffe and my first (and only) zebra – not too embarrassing though…I’m working on keeping my cool in these situations J

I also “met” Zazu from the Lion King; well, I at least have a resident bird exactly like him that hangs out by my cabin. I’m still waiting to see the crocs, hippos, and white rhino; keep your fingers crossed for me!

The people here are also extremely friendly. Right off the bat I noticed that the apartheid isn’t as forgotten as we Americans would tend to think; social integration and black empowerment are popular topics of conversation and opinions are like a certain body part – everyone has one. This is not necessarily negative, just completely unexpected. I have to admit that I was naïve enough to actually think that the end of the apartheid in 1994 actually meant that it must have ended in the people’s minds; one more lesson I’ve learned.

It’s been difficult basically jumping from one job to the next. I do miss my friends and family back home, not to mention the people I befriended while I was in the Bioko rainforest. Hardest of all is the continuing saga of finding internet and getting phone contact. In Equatorial Guinea I basically ran out of time to get a cell phone; here I finally have a cell phone but the charger to it doesn’t work, so I’m still without reliable a phone…three weeks after I first started to get one organized. As for the internet, it’s capped here; meaning, we have wireless, but as a camp, we only get a certain amount per month before we don’t get anymore. So I find myself rushing online, checking one or two things, and then getting off as fast as I can. Sorry…no more picture uploads of my trip until I leave this part of the job. It’s funny how even though I was without internet for three months, and now only have the bare minimum, that I can still get lots of information out to you guys!

Anyway, I’m not feeling homesick; just missing the act of having long conversations with people back home. It is strange to not have the traditional network of people around me. I am still not used to completely relying on myself to keep my spirit high. Whenever I feel at all down, I just think about how awesome my opportunities are, and that gets me through the moodiness.

Alrighty – that’s it for now! More stuff coming your way soon J

Primate censusing – a day in my life with the BBPP

Want to know what my typical day entailed during my tenure as a BBPP field assistant? Take a look at these two videos, which I took during our primate census. This happened to be a really unique monkey encounter – I only saw drills four times in two months, and it was pure luck that I happened to catch it on video. The bioko drill is an extremely unique animal, and is endangered – I am so fortunate to have been able to see it in the wild.



Preparing for Adventure.

The logistics of preparing a long-term expedition are not a cake-walk. The people organizing the BBPP expedition have spent days trying to organize porters (from a nearby village), spent hours trying to barter and order food and replacement parts, organize volunteers, and figure out paperwork and identification passes for each volunteer. Overall, the BBPP and its employees are preparing for a twenty-person, two-week RAVE expedition, and then a handful of us (four volunteers) are staying an additional two months. In addition to each of these volunteers needing to be fed and house, the porters and the graduate students also need adequate supplies. Needless to say, it’s amazing to watch and I’m thanking my lucky stars that I’m not the one using broken Spanish and hand signals to get this undertaking put together.

Just to give you an idea of the large amount of food that the porters will have to carry up a steep mountain side – think 250 kilos of rice, 150 kilos of beans, 15 kilos of sugar, 30+ tents, 20 sleeping mats, boxes and boxes of tomatoes, and two HUGE bags of onions (50 kilos each). That’s not even the entire food supply; Drew (my direct boss) has to go into town at least one more time to get another load.

It’s amazing the kind of the effort and man power that goes into making this expedition a reality. Every piece of toilet paper, every tent, and every person needs to climb (or be carried) up the mountain side. Aside from water (which is purified using a filter and iodine tablets), every single piece of clothing and equipment is carried up with us.

Fortunatly, I heeded to BBPP’s advice about packing light…for those of you who read the post about my packing list, I’m literally only carrying the bear essentials. Some are taking even less than me; another volunteer has claimed to be able to pack all of his belongings into a large daypack…we’ll see about that though :-)