by Mike Loomis
Page 1 : 3-4 February 2012
|The journal below is based on the field notes Dr. Loomis took while working in Mount Cameroon National Park. The journal is also annotated with photos. Dr. Loomis's daily diary entries, which are submitted to FieldTripEarth via satellite telephone, can be found on the Elephants of Cameroon: Field Diaries page.|
3 February 2012
The driver picked me up from the hotel at 0830. We drove to the office, loaded the vehicles and were headed to Idenau by 0930. We arrived in Idenau at 1030, which is where we were supposed to meet most of the team. There was quite a bit of confusion due to the delay caused by my illness. Some people thought that the entire mission was cancelled. Two of our team members did not show up. We were able to track them down, but it caused us to get a late start.
We drove through a commercial oil palm plantation enroute to the trailhead. We arrived at the car dropoff point at 1230. There has been a lot of deforestation since our guides were last in the area, and they were not able to find the trail. We hiked to the Mt. Cameroon National Park boundary and then hiked along the boundary (the boundary is a cleared demarcation six meters wide).
As we were hiking, a couple of the people ahead of me stopped and pointed out a gaboon viper in the middle of the trail. It was very well camouflaged, and I might have stepped on it if they had not pointed it out. We continued hiking along the boundary to a small river. From there, we entered the park and headed cross-country to our campsite, the location of which we had on our GPS units. We have used this camp in the past; it is called Idenau Camp 1.
As we were hiking, we could hear chainsaws, and we passed by a number of trees that had been illegally cut down and rough-sawed into lumber. The hike was steep and difficult in places. We stopped at 1630 for a lunch of sardine sandwiches. We continued on towards camp. At 1530, as we were approaching a water source about 300 meters from camp, we almost ran into a group of four elephants who were on the same trail we were on, though they were heading in the opposite direction.
We were carrying heavy packs and were not prepared to dart. It took us about 10 minutes to organize ourselves; by this time, the elephants had moved off out of range of the dart rifle. Desire, Dickson and I started approaching the elephants. Unfortunately, someone panicked and climbed a tree. The noise he made alerted the elephants to our location and they turned and ran downslope. It was too late to follow the elephants, so we continued on to camp. We arrived at 1800. By the time we set up camp it was dark. Since we had lunch at 1630, we skipped dinner and went to bed. We heard an elephant around 0100.
4 February 2012
After a breakfast of beans and bread, we hiked to the main water source near camp. It is a beautiful pool with water coming out of the rocks just above the pool and a stream leaving the pool. We found the trail of the elephants we saw yesterday—the trail was moving away from the water source. We followed the tracks to where we had seen the elephants the day before. There were a lot of elephant tracks and feeding sites in the area. The tracks we were following led in a circle, and the trackers could not find where the elephants finally left the area.
We headed northeast of camp in search of fresh elephant signs, but found none. Old elephant tracks led us to a number of water points and a mud bath. We circled back to camp, arriving at noon. The trackers wanted to have a long day on 5 February, so we decided to spend the rest of the day in camp resting. I was not too happy about losing a half day of work in the field, but I am not completely 100% healthy after my illness and so I did not insist on continuing.
It sprinkled on and off throughout the afternoon. Everyone remains optimistic. I had a treat for dinner. We normally have gari, which is cassava prepared in a certain way. I am not a fan of gari but the team really likes it so I eat it with them. Desire fixed fufu cassava for dinner tonight. It is still cassava, but prepared differently and has a flavor and texture I prefer to gari.
There was a lot of loud conversation around the campfire. I had to remind the team that noise carries very far on the side of the mountain. They toned down their conversations. I woke up sometime during the night and saw the silhouette of a frog on my tent rainfly. I got up to photograph the frog, which was a Cameroon forest tree frog.
Next Page : 5-7 February 2012
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