BLOG #2 – 16



By: Aileen Sweeny


The rains have continued heavy and often throughout January and February which can be frustrating at times, but of course there’s always plenty of work to be done at camp…be it coding videos, updating documents or weighing faecal samples! All this rain, with intermittent sunshine, is causing the grass to grow fast and tall. In some areas there are already patches of grass taller than me (and I’m 5’9’’, so not exactly short!). It’s so easy to miss the baboons in the grass. Several times we have spotted one and presumed that we have reached the edge of the group, but after a few minutes of standing still we will notice that we have left 10 or 15 behind us and are in fact in the middle of the group! It’s great to see how habituated they are, but at times it would be helpful if they barked when they saw us, instead of continuing quietly at whatever they are doing, in order to alert us that we have encountered them!! 


The main road, flooded due to rainy season!



Long grass and difficult to see roads: rainy season in Kasanka.


There have been a lot of problems with phone signal at Kasanka for the last two weeks. Unfortunately I rely on signal for both my phone and also internet access, so when it’s gone I’m completely cut off from the outside world (of course, I still have radio contact with the rest of the park though!). It’s amazing and unbelievably peaceful to feel so utterly at one with nature when you can’t even send a text message if you want…but, like most things, the feeling starts to wear off eventually! Luckily for me though, signal has been coming back intermittently for a few hours at a time here at camp for the last week (while it has been completely gone from Wasa Lodge for the entire time). This has led to Kinda Camp being busier than ever as everyone comes to get signal here, which has been great as I get to see them all much more than usual. I’ve joked that I’m the new “Kasanka liaison officer” and that I should start charging them with all proceeds going to the project!! As soon as I hear “Kinda” being called on the radio, I know someone is checking if signal is available here or not. Hopefully it will improve soon though (18


: It did! Wasa have signal again). 


Beautiful sky view from the camp’s hide, where I have spent a lot of time recently for signal.


Just a quick update on our sponsored student, Leah Mwamba. Leah will be starting high school this week and all arrangements money-wise have been put in place to make this happen for her. She seemed extremely excited when I met her last week to discuss everything and draw up a budget together. She will travel to Serenje for shopping on Monday (18


) and then onto Mukando High School to begin her studies. Best of luck Leah!!


While I was in Lusaka (unsuccessfully) attempting to collect my work permit, I was able to collect books and journals that Anna had sent over for the Girls Conservation Club (along with peanut butter kitkats and cashew nuts for me- thanks Anna!!!). We had been discussing starting a book club for the girls before Liz left so it’s very exciting to now be able to start it up. The girls were delighted with the books (which they are allowed to keep) and we are starting out with Anne Frank. I will be reading along with them so that we can all discuss it during class. This famous story is a great book to start with and will give the girls (and me!) a perspective on a life completely different from theirs. They will be recording their thoughts and feelings about it in their new journals.


Abia, Victoria, Leah and Selina with their new books and journals as part of the Conservation Club’s new Book Club.


I have been here for almost 4 months now and the entire troop is still accounted for. I hope it remains that way for my entire stay as I have become attached to all the individuals already! Of course the reality is that it won’t though. We also still haven’t had any new males emigrate into the troop yet even though we well and truly need some as our adult male count is quite low. I realised this particularly when we encountered the “other” group recently (which numbers around 100 individuals) and I was really surprised by the number of adult males in the group. It seemed like every second baboon I looked at was an adult male! Marley has decided at least two males need to move from this troop to ours as “there is not enough fighting going on at the moment to help us find them in the long grass!” 


Lovely MJ with her gang of kids! Mowgli (L), Madonna (R) and little Macy (centre).

We are almost certain that Yoko is pregnant (Anna picked it up as soon as she saw her in December) and so she will be the first to give birth this year. I’m very excited about it! It will be her first infant and it means she became pregnant just after I arrived here (therefore I call dibs on Godmother!). The fact that Liz saw a grand total of 12 infants born last year means the number of possible mothers this year is much lower, so each and every birth will be extra special for me. I hope I will get to see every possible colour morph in

the new infants; I’m still beyond fascinated by this unique Kinda characteristic. I also have a suspicion that Dolly may be pregnant, and I predict Frieda will be (or has been) the next to conceive. 


Yoko (who we believe is pregnant) and Short Tail, who have been spending increasing amounts of time together!


Dolly (also possibly pregnant) observing me observing her during a focal!