by Mike Loomis
Page 1 : 21-25 January 2013
|The journal below is based on the field notes Dr. Loomis took while working in the Ebo region in January and February 2013. 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.|
21 January 2013
We had planned to leave Limbe for Yabassi at noon for the second phase of elephant collaring. We checked out of the hotel and went to the office. There were problems with vehicles and with getting a check cashed to buy supplies. By the time everything was solved and supplies purchased, we were able to leave Limbe at 1600. We encountered very heavy traffic in Douala. At one point, we were stuck in a traffic jam for 45 minutes without moving. Finally, a policeman came to direct traffic and we continued to Yabassi. We finally arrived at 2100, had a cold drink and went to bed.
22 January 2013
We spent all day arranging for local trackers and guides. We had to visit the villages of Yengi, Ndogmem Nord, Mosse and Iboti to make all of the arrangements. Several hunters from Iboti were arrested for illegal hunting and were in prison in Yabassi. Derrick went to the prison to see if the person we wanted to use as our guide—a man named Thomas—was among the prisoners. Fortunately, he was not. We returned to Yabassi at 2100, had dinner and went to bed.
23 January 2013
We left Yabassi at 1000 and drove to Yengi, where we picked up two team members, then drove to Ndogmem Nord, where we met the rest of our team. We had a problem with three of the porters that we recruited yesterday. They refused to carry the packs prepared for them. They said that the packs were too heavy, even though they were told how heavy the packs would be when they were recruited.
Also, the elders of Ndogmem Nord felt that there were too many team members from outside their village. We were able to replace three porters (two from Iboti and one from Yengi) with porters from Ndogmem Nord, which seemed to make everyone happy. We had a traditional cola nut ceremony with the village elite, who opened up the forest to us. By the time everything was finished, it was 1530.
Local people were so sure that we would find elephants near Ndogmen Nord that they suggested we take only one of our two collars with us and then return to the village to pick up the second collar after we collared the first elephant. We have heard this before, and we left the village with both of our collars. We had originally planned to hike to Ebo Camp 1, a camp we have used in the past, but got such a late start that we knew we would not be able to make the camp. Our backup plan was to camp at an established hunting camp we call Ebo Poacher's Camp 2, but we realized we would not be able to make it there either. We ended up hiking to the Fanga River and setting up a quick camp there before it got dark. The bees were numerous and several people got stung. We had a quick dinner of rice and sardines and went to bed. The only elephant signs we saw hiking to the Fanga River were about a month old.
24 January 2013
We got up early to try to avoid the bees, but it didn't work. I was stung three times while I was packing up my tent. We had bread and coffee for breakfast and headed to Ebo Poacher's Camp 2. Desire decided that we should work the area around this camp to make sure that we didn't miss elephants that were still in this area. The hike was mostly uphill for an hour. This is an established camp, and bees were already in camp when we arrived.
We left several people in camp to set up tents, and the rest of the team left camp to search for fresh elephant tracks. We hiked uphill for about 45 minutes to an old logging road. These logging roads are referred to as tirages. We found several elephant tracks, but all were several days to several weeks old. We did find one set of tracks that were about 48 hours old. We followed them for awhile, but they turned back on themselves and the trackers lost the trail. We headed back to camp and arrived at 1600.
The bees were really bad in camp. I took a bath in the river and washed my clothes, which helped reduce the number of bees attracted to me. We decided to head back to the area where we lost the tracks tomorrow.
25 January 2013
We got up early, had beans and bread for breakfast, and were on the trail by 0740. The bees were already bad in camp, and I was glad when we finally started hiking. We hiked back to where the elephant tracks turned back on themselves and followed the trail in the direction the elephants were going before they turned back. The hike from camp was about 40 minutes uphill to a tirage. We followed the trail for 30 minutes but did not find any fresh tracks. We crossed over to another drainage and descended to a water source. We still did not find fresh tracks.
We then ascended a very long, steep hill and crossed over to the drainage our camp is on. We came to a tirage, which we followed downhill to a tributary of the stream our camp is on—the tributary is about 200 meters from our camp. We in essence had hiked a north-south transect to see if elephants had crossed by moving east or west. We found no elephant tracks, not even old ones.
We decided to hike to Ebo Camp 1, a base camp we used in June 2012. We returned to our base camp at 1400, washed clothes and baths. The team is a bit discouraged that we have not found any fresh elephant tracks. Hopefully we will have better luck around our next camp.
We saw a troop of chimpanzees during our hike today. Also, we came across several old pit traps as we were hiking in the area. All had straight sides and were as deep as three meters. From what I've been told, these pit traps are "ancient" and have not been used in at least two generations. When they were used, they trapped all kinds of animals, including elephants. The pits were covered with light branches and leaves in the middle of game trails. The animals would walk onto the covering of the trap and fall through into the pit and be trapped there.
Next Page : 26 January - 1 February 2013
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