BLOG #1 – 10
By Aileen Sweeny
A NEW YEAR AT KINDA BEGINS!
Happy New Year everyone! And so Kasanka Baboon Project enters another year. Here’s to 2013; let’s hope it’s filled with baboons, research, faecal samples(!), health and happiness here at Kinda!
Unfortunately it’s been extremely rainy here since January began (“Yes, it’s the rainy season…” is the response I get every time I complain how wet it is!), so much so that the solar battery drained due to lack of sunlight. Luckily I was able to ration charging items so we got through it just fine.
HELLO ANNA AND GOODBYE LIZ
We have unfortunately said goodbye to Liz as I (Aileen) take over the position of Camp Manager. Liz has been exceptional, and while I was only with her for two of her 12 months here, I can easily see how much hard work she put in. Best of luck with all your future plans Liz; we will all miss you here at Kinda (especially me and Aretha!). Liz left a little memento for us to remember her by in the form of a beautiful sign she made for camp!
We had an additional primate enthusiastic here at camp for a few weeks during December- of course it was Anna, the project director! It was so nice for me to finally meet her, and it was great that myself, Liz and Anna all got to spend time together. 3 generations of Kasanka Baboon Project ladies!
The new Kinda Camp sign designed and made by Liz.
SARAH DARLENE HOGLE SCHOLARSHIP FUND
Anna’s visit coincided perfectly with the choosing of a girl to receive the Sarah Darlene Hogle Scholarship Fund, which will see her through high school. After narrowing down applicants, conducting interviews and giving the short-listed girls an exam, we had our girl! Congratulations to Leah Mwamba who will be receiving the scholarship. Leah excelled in all aspects of her application and we have no doubt she will excel in school. We are all very excited to be involved in assisting with Leah’s education. Anna, Liz and I were all able to meet her and have a discussion about the funding she will receive once she accepts a place in a school of her choice.
Aileen, Liz and Anna with Leah who will receive funding for her education from the Sarah Darlene Hogle Scholarship Fund
Anna, Liz and Aileen with the Girls Science Club members.
CHRISTMAS IN KASANKA
All of a sudden December 25
was upon us and it was Christmas at Kinda Camp! It was my first Christmas away from home, and while I knew I’d miss my family, I was excited about the new experience. Between us, Anna and I had brought decorations and so we put them up around camp. However, even with decorations and watching Christmas movies, it still didn’t feel fully like Christmas because of the weather!
The Kinda Camp Christmas tree!
On Christmas morning I had a package to open from my family which Anna had been kind enough to lug all the way over from the US for me. Such a lovely little surprise! We then began to make our way to Wasa for Christmas dinner with everyone, stopping to track the new zebra along to way (as you do on Christmas Day!!). We had a lovely afternoon with a total of 15 of us at dinner which included turkey and gammon! How amazing to experience eating Christmas dinner while overlooking Wasa Lake from the lodge, such a special experience.
Christmas dinner at Wasa Lodge with various staff, volunteers and visitors.
Two of the new zebra in the Park on Christmas morning.
ANIMALS, ANIMALS, ANIMALS
There have been quite a few animal encounters recently. Firstly, I finally saw my first side-stripe jackal one morning while out with the baboons. Sure enough, when there’s one, there’s two, and I saw another one the following evening. On another day out in the field with Anna and Marley I suddenly noticed something large and dark moving quickly through the forest towards the plain (we were standing in the middle of the Wasa 3 plain). I told Anna and Marley and the next thing we knew, two stunning adult Sable antelope appeared out onto the plain. It’s difficult to describe how excited Anna and I were as this was the first time for both of us to see Sable! It was special for me; so for Anna, who has been in and around Kasanka for years now, it must have been amazing.
One of the two male Sable antelope we saw on the Wasa 3 plain
I also encountered elephants for the first time while cycling. I was on my way back from Wasa on January 1
when I came across them. I must say I was quite nervous, but while I have no doubt they were fully aware of me, they didn’t let on that they’d seen me at all. I got to see my first hippo footprints, and it just so happened they were only a few metres from my tent. While I’m well aware of how large a hippo is, I was still very surprised by the size of the prints; they were huge! And all the rain had made the ground so soft that they were perfectly formed and quite deep in the mud. It’s thrilling to think how close I live to nature. Speaking of which, the night after I saw the prints by my tent I had to go back to the dining room as I’d forgotten my water bottle. My head-torch isn’t the strongest as its LED (but lasts for weeks without needing new batteries!) so before I knew it, I had nearly stepped on a python that was easily over 2m long! Of course, initially I got a huge fright and the adrenalin was definitely pumping, but I quickly recognised it as a python and knew the only way it was going to kill me was if it got hold of me and squeezed me to death! Yet another amazing animal encounter at Kinda Camp!
Hippo footprint on the track to the hide here at Kinda Camp.
~3m long python just outside the tent one night!
Everything is going well in the troop and luckily we haven’t lost any members since I arrived two-and-a-half months ago (touch wood!). They were all unbelievably calm around Anna and I had some amazing close encounters with them while out in the field with her.
Hopefully some of Anna’s magic has rubbed off on me and they will continue to be as relaxed as they were when she was here. So far, so good it seems. The only time they’ve seemed strange with me was when I arrived on a bike one evening straight after a shower to check which sleeping site they were using. So I think between arriving on a bike (they really don’t seem to like bikes) and being fully clean, they didn’t initially recognise me!!
Frieda being groomed by Muma while Floyd suckles