Maybe the scariest day ever...
by Mike Loomis
March 25, 2002
Monday, 6:45AM EST/12:45PM Cameroon
We're four hours into a five-hour hike toward the Ndangaye Bai camp. We left Bjembe on Sunday after a last-ditch effort to collar an elephant in the Tri-National Park area.
Late Saturday afternoon, Mario, one of the trackers, saw an elephant cross a trail about 500 meters from our camp, but we weren't able to catch up with him. We got going early on Sunday, as we had already decided that this would be our last day in the Bjembe region. We once again located tracks fairly quickly, and trailed a very large bull elephant through thick vegetation for about two hours. We got within 20 meters of him, but could barely see him--only his face was visible, and once in awhile we could see him flapping his ears at us. As you probably know, this is an aggressive signal. He proved that a few minutes later when he charged. Thankfully, he was confused enough that he took off in a direction where none of us could be injured. However, there was nothing about this charge to make me think he was bluffing, as has usually been the case with other elephants we've encountered. This time, if he had have gone in the right direction, I'm sure some of us would have been hurt, as there was nowhere for us to run or hide. I have to admit that yesterday was perhaps the most frightened I have been while tracking elephants.
So, obviously we didn't get any good shots off on Sunday. Since it is so important for us to get a Lobeke elephant collared, we decided to leave Bjembe and head for Ndangaye Bai, where we had some success last year. We got out of Bjembe Sunday afternoon, make it back to the pick up point, and got a ride over to the Ndangaye trailhead. Here are some coordinates:
Bjembe camp = 2.58 degrees North/16.097 degrees East
Ndangaye trailhead = 2.389 degrees North/15.685 degrees East
We were also fortunate enough to run across a family of gorillas on Sunday morning. We watched them for quite awhile, and shot some video that I hope will turn out well. Michael is still weak but making some progress. Also, Desiré has been ill (not with malaria), but I think he will be better soon. We will set up in Ndangaye today, and hopefully we'll soon have some good news about collaring a Lobeke elephant.
About the author:
Dr. Mike Loomis is Chief Veterinarian at the North Carolina
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