An update from our Primate Release Project Manager, Amanda, including how the projects firsts volunteers have got on!
June has come and brought with it the Dry Season here in Kasungu National Park. All the lush, green, waist-high grass has quickly turned brown and brittle, making our yellow baboons blend in all the more with their surroundings. Even though it is dry, the trees are starting to bear ripened fruits, much to the delight of the troop. With the dry season coming into full swing, the baboons are now having to expand their daily home ranging in search for more permanent water sources, which is also starting to lead to more encounters with the neighboring wild baboon troops. There have been a few encounters recently, which always keep me and the research team on our toes. But, so far, not much has happened when they’ve met! The juveniles of both troops are always the most interested, while the adults lose interest pretty quickly and return to their usual foraging. The two troops usually sit and stare at each other from opposite tree lines for about an hour and then go their separate ways. It’s always exciting to see what might happen, although luckily there have been no scuffles so far, at least since Roman came along!
Roman, the wild male who joined us a couple of months ago, is doing quite well leading the troop and showing them the bush hotspots for food and water. And the rest of the troop has happily accepted him as their leader. All the baboons are adapting well, and are happy and healthy!
The past few weeks have also been kept busy with having our first volunteer field assistants! Rich and Clemmie, from the UK and Ireland respectively, both came up to Kasungu National Park after volunteering at the Wildlife Centre, to gain some experience with primate fieldwork and bush living. Both took to the bush right away, feeling totally comfortable living in Kasungu without the major comforts of home. It can be quite a change and definitely an experience to live out in the middle of the bush with limited solar power, cooking on gas and wood-fire stoves, and having very few people around. But it also comes with its perks that we all enjoyed over the past few weeks, such as elephants visiting our camp and the dam. We watched them drink and play in the water right on our front yard. At night, leopards, heard but not seen, strolled through camp.
Rich and Clemmie both came out in the field with me with the baboons, and it was an absolute joy to teach them everything I know about baboons, especially since it’s my favorite thing to talk about! They both very quickly picked up the data collection techniques, radio telemetry, and GPS tracking, as well as getting to know each individual baboon. The baboons were comfortable with new assistants out with them in the bush all day as well, so they made for a great team. After years of various field assistant jobs myself, it was a great pleasure to finally take on the role of teacher and leader to pass on my knowledge of all things baboon and fieldwork.
Some more volunteer field assistants are lined up to join me and the release team in the coming weeks and months, and I can’t wait to teach them and see what good things they can add to the team and life in the bush!