In the Deep Dark Rain Forest
by Mike Loomis
March 22, 2002
Friday, 6:40AM EST/12:40PM Cameroon
On Thursday afternoon, we went back out to examine several salt licks and look for fresh elephant tracks. We didn't see much around the salt licks, but then came across a lot of tracks on our way back to camp. However, the problem we're running into is that the vegetation in this part of the forest is so dense that it really limits what we can do in several ways. First, the density makes it very hard for us to simply travel and follow tracks; we frequently lose track of the trail as we work through the vegetation.
Secondly, the fact that the forest gets so dark so early also limits what we can do. It literally begins to get dark around 4:30 in the afternoon--don't forget that we're down near the Equator--and we've decided that it's too risky to dart an elephant once it starts to get dark. We are concerned that we could lose track of an elephant after it's been darted. As well, we're not sure that we'd be able to complete the collaring process accurately if we had to work in the dark.
This morning, we hiked to a new location. This one also had a salt lick. We dropped our equipment there, and explored a bit. We found even more fresh elephant tracks, but once again the vegetation was so dense that we couldn't locate an animal.
On our way back to pick up our equipment, we saw three hingebacked tortoises. This excited the porters very much, as they recognize tortoises as a good luck omen. I hope they're right. We've seen lots of other animals, including green mambas, colobus monkeys, and duikers. We also heard three troops of gorillas, but haven't seen any yet.
I think that we'll spend two more nights in this satellite camp. If we don't collar an elephant in that time, we'll go back to our very reliable camp near Ndangaye Bai, the area where we collared Desiré (see last year's diary, beginning at March 1, 2001, to learn more about our work last year in this region).
About the author:
Dr. Mike Loomis is Chief Veterinarian at the North Carolina
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