by Mike Loomis
Page 1 : 27 June to 1 July 2012
|The journal below is based on the field notes Dr. Loomis took while working in Ebo Reserve. The journal is also annotated with photos. Dr. Loomis's daily diary entries, which are submitted to FieldTripEarth via satellite telephone, can be found on the Elephants of Cameroon: Field Diaries page.|
27 June 2012
I recharged batteries and packed my backpack for the trip.
28 June 2012
As usual, it took more time than I had hoped to get everything arranged to leave for the field. Dickson did the shopping for supplies and did not finish until around 1400. We finally left Limbe at 1500 and drove to Yabassi. The traffic was not as bad in Douala as it was the last time we drove to Yabassi. We arrived in Yabassi in the evening. I had dinner at the hotel. Dickson, Desire and Derrick planned to go to Yingui tomorrow to arrange our team.
29 July 2012
I had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, then walked to the office shared by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Cameroon Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) offices and talked with the WWF staff for a while. After lunch, I returned to the hotel and rested until Desire, Dickson and Derrick returned. It took them longer than expected to set the team. They did not arrive back in Yabassi until early evening. We plan to leave for Yingui at 0700 tomorrow morning.
30 June 2012
I got up at 0630 and had breakfast. I was a little nauseated when I got up, but breakfast seemed to settle my stomach. We left Yabassi at 0730. The road to Yingui is windy and bumpy and my nausea got worst as we drove. I had to stop the vehicle so I could take some motion sickness medication. After about 10 minutes, the nausea had pretty much resolved and we continued on to Yingui. We arrived at Yingui at 0900.
Most of our team members were in Yingui waiting for us, but a couple were missing. It took awhile to round up everyone. While we were waiting, the chief in Yingui offered me a glass of palm wine. We left Yingui for the logging concession designated UFA 00004. This is the same concession we were working in during the first phase of our mission, but we will be further north and in an area where there is some active logging. We passed through a control point at the beginning of the concession and gave the guard a copy of our authorization papers from the logging company to conduct elephant tagging operations in the area.
We drove to an established trail head and started hiking into the forest at 1145. After hiking for about an hour, we came across a very well-established poacher's camp. Three poachers were actively using the camp. They were primarily trapping, although there were some shotgun shell casings around the area. There was smoked meat and a dead pangolin in the camp, as well as a large number of trap triggers, indicating that there were a lot of snares in the area. Since we did not have a MINFOF game guard with us, we had no legal authority to do anything about the poachers. We will report the location of the camp to both MINFOF and the logging company.
The presence of the camp caused us to change the location of our base camp in order to work in an area where there was less human disturbance. We headed northeast to the Nouya River and arrived at an established camp site at 1545. This site has been used by poachers and conservationists in the past. We set up camp, taking advantage of some of the infrastructure left by the last people in the camp. We did not see any fresh elephant signs on the way into the camp. We were very disappointed to see a high level of human activity in the area. Our current location is 8.3 kilometers southwest of the spot where we lost sight of elephant tracks during the first phase of our mission.
1 July 2012
It started raining at 0400. I got up to secure my tent and put my clothes under the rain fly. While I was arranging my things, I got stung by an ant. The sting was very painful and swelled up quite a bit. The pain and swelling had greatly diminished by the time I got up at 0615. The rain had stopped, so we had breakfast and got on the trail at 0740. We headed north of camp in the general direction of the confluence of the Nouya and Makambé Rivers.
We hiked for two hours and then came out on the main logging road. We hiked along the logging road to a bridge crossing the Enoubou River. We followed the Enoubou to its confluence with the Makambé, then hiked south along the Makambé for a while. We did not find any fresh elephant signs. We hiked back to the main logging road and arrived at the road at a bridge that crosses the Nouya River.
We checked our GPS and found that we were just one kilometer from our camp. If we had had a map of the logging roads in the area, we could have saved several hours of hiking when we hiked into camp yesterday. We hiked along the Nouya to our camp. The trail was fairly well-used, most likely by poachers. We arrived back at camp at around noon.
I took a bath and washed my clothes in the river. The insects are very bad in this camp. In addition to honey bees, there are horse flies, yellow flies and black flies. The black flies are particularly annoying. I end up with a welt about the size of a nickel each time one bites me. They are carriers for onchocerciasis (river blindness), so I will need to have a prophylactic treatment when I return to the United States.
The only place I can get relief from the insects is in my tent. There was sun off and on, and a slight wind most of the afternoon, so everything dried out fairly well. Tomorrow we will head south along the Nouya. One of our team members developed several blisters on his body as a reaction to an antibiotic he had accidentally taken. He thought he was taking ibuprofen (a painkiller), but took the antibiotic by mistake. He has had a similar reaction to the antibiotic in the past.
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