Out of Boumba Bek...On to Bongos
by Mike Loomis
April 11, 2003
8 April 2003
We started our hike out of Boumba Bek today. Hiking through the forest is very difficult, as we are constantly having to step over roots and vines and duck under vines and branches—sometimes stepping over and ducking under simultaneously. There are very few places where we can walk upright and take complete strides. In some areas, the underbrush is very thick, and we have actually carved tunnels through the underbrush with machetes.
Our goal today was to reach the same base camp that we camped at on the way in. On the way in it took us nine hours to make the hike. On the way out, our loads were a little lighter (less food to carry out), and our pace a little quicker. We always seem to walk faster leaving the forest than going in. We made the trip in seven hours. We set up camp and had dinner. In the early evening, it started raining. We had torrential downpours for over an hour. All of our equipment and clothing got soaked. We’re in for a fun day tomorrow.
9 April 2003
We got up early and started packing our equipment. We decided to try to complete the hike out today. On the way in, the hike was 12 hours. It started raining as we began our hike, so we quickened our pace even more. We made the trip in 9 grueling hours, stopping only once to cross the Boumba River. We arrived in in the town of Ngallo 120 (the "120" indicates that it is 120 kilometers from Yokadouma) exhausted. Because of road conditions, we decided not to try to drive back to Yokadouma. We drove about 20 minutes to Salapoumbe and spent the night in a minimal hotel. We could see light coming through the walls and the ceiling, so we are glad it did not rain.
We had a small celebration to thank the trackers and porters for all the hard work they had done. Everyone was very disappointed that we were not able to find elephants in the area, but we are looking forward to trying again next year. It is interesting to note that the area we searched was heavily used by elephants in the recent past. It is almost as if someone told them we were coming, and they left the area.
10 April 2003
Before leaving Salapoumbe, we stopped by the house of the Commandant of the Brigade of the local Gendarmerie (state police) to inform him of our progress and that we were leaving the area. He was disappointed that we were unable to collar an elephant in the area, and hopes that we will try again next year. He did mention that some poachers had been found in the area we were working in, and that may have been the reason the elephants had left the area. We saw no signs of poached elephants in the field, however.
We made the two and one-half hour drive back to Yokadouma. We were looking forward to cold showers (there is no hot water in the hotel) and indoor plumbing. It is interesting how eight days in the forest changes your perspective on what luxury is. We were very disappointed to learn that a pumping station for the city's water was out of commission, and that there was no running water in Yokadouma. We had to resort to bucket baths. We are still exhausted from the past two days of hiking, and are looking forward to a few days of rest.
11 April 2003
We are spending today washing clothes, resting, and drying our equipment. We plan to leave Monday the 14th in search of a bongo and to replace the collar on Robinson. Because we did not get an elephant in Boumba Bek, we have an extra collar to deploy. Robinson’s current collar only has a couple of months of battery life remaining, so we plan to replace his collar with the one originally intended for Boumba Bek. If we are successful, we should get an additional year's worth of data on Robinson, which will be a significant contribution to the data already collected.
About the author:
Dr. Mike Loomis is Chief Veterinarian at the North Carolina
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