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From the field!

June 2024, Tarun Kakarala
Tarun Kakarala_edited.jpg
Issa red-tailed monkley (photo: T. Kakarala/GMERC).jpeg
A red-tailed monkey at Issa (photo: T. Kakarala/GMERC)

A day in the field...


Every day out in the field is filled with amazing encounters and physical trials. Even the days where it seems like nothing expect hiking the hilly terrain will happen, can be filled with numerous unexpected encounters.


On one such day I was scheduled for the morning chimp shift along side Julius, who to me is superhuman with how fast he can move up and down these hills. We started our day at 6am on route to the fig tree in the forest where we’ve been seeing a large group of the Issa chimps the last couple weeks but have begun to move in the last few days. We waited above the forest for about an hour listening for their vocalizations but heard nothing. We did, however, see almost every other primate in the Issa Valley. In the trees right in front of us we saw red-tailed monkeys foraging and after a little time passed, we saw several baboons move into our view, some who were especially curious of us and kept moving closer with their eyes glued on us the whole time. At one point we even saw a glimpse of red colobus.


After this we kept on moving to different spots to listen for the chimpanzees, we went down into the forest where the fig tree was and climbed the hill on the opposite side, we had to use vines and roots to pull ourselves up given how steep and loose the ground was. We kept on moving going to several different places I have never seen before during my one month stay here so far, seeing landscapes that reminded me of scenes from Avatar. We stopped six different times to listen but heard nothing and saw no signs of the chimps. On our way back to camp, we spotted more red-tails and a cow carcass. 


We trekked up and down several hills before nearing camp, and on the radio, Julius was talking to the team on the evening shift about where to meet to exchange the video camera when I heard them say Junction. Junction is a site that’s commonly visited to listen to chimps and coming from camp its quite close and flat. However, going to camp through junction is a whole another story. Junction is one of the longest uphill climbs in that area, and after already hiking up and down for several kilometers I was unsure if I my body would hold together. But after what felt like an eternity, we reached the top and were greeted by the evening team, and Julius turned to me and said I have become much stronger since I first arrived. Just those words made the whole venture worth it and filled me with a sense of accomplishment. Even days where you don’t find what you set out to find are still fulfilling and enjoyable days.

Foraging yellow baboon _ Issa (photo_ T_edited.jpg
An Issa baboon forages (photo: T. Kakarala/GMERC)
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