Notes From the Field, October - December 2009
October 26, 2009
Assistant conservation coordinator Stefanie McLaughlin (from the Zoological Society’s office in Milwaukee, Wis.):
A quick e-mail to let you know that Gay and Patrick Guislain, BCBI Field Site Coordinator, have made it safely (along with all of their luggage, thankfully!) to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo [Kinshasa is the country’s capital.].
After a week's stay in Kinshasa to take care of some administrative matters, they will head out to the field. On this mission they will return to the Salonga National Park. This will be their first trip back to Etate (Zoological Society research station) in a year; this past spring their mission was to do a collaborative bonobo survey with the African Wildlife Foundation in the Lomako area. [See a map of Zoological Society research areas below.]
This fall field season has a jam-packed to-do list. In addition to finding new office space in Mbandaka and completing the usual administrative tasks that are a normal part of doing conservation work in Democratic Republic of Congo, we have some ongoing and new goals for our field work. [Mbandaka is the station point where the BCBI team travels before they head up river by a canoe called a pirogue.]
Dr. Gay E. Reinartz:
Since the research team has not been to Etate in a year, our first goal is to check on the status of our research station, the guards we support there, and the results of their work on patrols and monitoring the status of bonobo and other wildlife populations at Etate. Our team will also assess the capacity of the new guards transferred to Etate and begin their training program. We train the guards how to use GPS units, read maps, cut transects, and record data. During this time, Zoological Society will pay out medical benefits and replenish supplies and food stocks for the guards.
The team must also verify other program activities outside the park, such as the Zoological Society’s new adult literacy program, and try to hire an additional teacher to keep up with the popular demand. Over 145 students attend the adult classes in the village of Bofoku Mai! We will also evaluate the school support program that helps villages hire teachers for their primary schools. The Zoological Society began an agricultural co-operative in 2005, and this program will expand this year in terms of enlisting additional villages and engaging a local non-profit organization (agri-specialists) to manage the program and to train villagers in soil conservation techniques. [For more on the literary program and the agricultural cooperative, click here.]
Thanks to additional grant funds from the USAID Livelihoods Program, CARPE, all Zoological Society community outreach programs will expand this year. Patrick and I must initiate and oversee the setup phase of these projects during this mission. In addition to being reunited again with our loyal Etate guards, Bunda, Edmond, and Turé, we also hope to further train two very talented men who were among the cadre of students in the Lomako project during the last mission.
We have invited Michele and Mozart to join us in Mbandaka. They will travel with us upriver to Etate and help us to research the bonobos, do our surveys and train novice guards in bio-monitoring. The guards will in turn teach them tree species, animal habits, and patrolling. Depending on their performance, we would like to take on Michele and Mozart for the next year as paid interns who would work with us to obtain advanced organizational and analytical skills, to administer field programs, and to report their results. These two men are worthy of our support, and we are thrilled by the prospect of a reunion.
And, of course, in between all of this, we hope to do a little bit of bonobo research out in the woods to explore what’s over the next hill and around the next bend in the river!