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Love bugs…

Hello – As the rains approach East Africa, many insects are courting and mating. The most ardent lovers in the insect world are no doubt the ‘Love Bugs’ who spend hours and hours mating. They are actually flies in the family Bibionidae. This pair had picked Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania for their romantic getaway. The female is the large one – and it is she who carries the male around while they mate! bibionidae-lr1.jpg 

A story to share…

THE BRAVEST ANIMAL

By Dino J. Martins

 

The heat shimmered over the dry plains. The mighty lion had just finished his drink by the waterhole. He lay back, stretching his massive paws and yawning.

 

From a safe distance dozens of thirsty eyes watched the sweet, shimmering water.

 

The other animals were all very, very thirsty because the rains had failed to arrive this year. All the rivers, swamps and watering holes had long since dried up. All except this one.

 

This watering hole was very special. It was located in a grove of sacred Mugumo trees. The trees roots’ formed a protective net around the edges of the pool, their branches met in a protective umbrella, shading the pool from drying up even in the greatest heat. It seemed as if the trees themselves kept the pool filled by drawing water from the depths of the earth with their roots. This is why dozens of animals had converged on the pool in the middle of the afternoon heat- they desperately needed to drink.

 

However, the arrival of Lion had disrupted the normally peaceful afternoon.

 

“As if it wasn’t bad enough that he scared us out of the shade,” cried the guineafowl, “Why did he have to fall asleep by the edge of the pool? Now none of us can get any water,” they cackled.

 

A striped body leapt out of the bush beyond, and then startled by the sight of the sleeping lion, rushed back.

 

It was Kudu, and she was very thirsty. Kudu jumped back, almost trampling the guineafowl, who scampered out of the way.

 

“Hey! Look where you are going!” they yelled.

“I,m sorry,” said Kudu, shaking her large ears, “I was startled by Lion.”

“You aren’t the only one who’s been startled this afternoon,” said one of the guineafowl pointing to a family of frightened baboons sitting high up in a thorny euphorbia.

 

Kudu looked around, she noticed many different animals waiting in the scant shade, others had simply collapsed panting in the sun, they all wanted the same thing, a drink from the pool. There were families of warthogs, the children running in circles around their exhausted parents. A pair of shy dik dik, watching everyone else nervously. Twelve ostriches, stood behind a family of impala, all of them eyeing the water with increasing thirst. A giraffe ambled by, casting a weary eye on the sleeping lion, then leaned down his long neck to whisper, in a hollow voice, coarse from thirst:

“Water, please, I need water.”

 

As thirsty as all the animals were, none of them dared venture close to the pool as long as Lion was asleep by it. As they waited and grew evermore thirsty and impatient, they began to squabble amongst each other. After several hours of blaming and teasing each other, Kudu suddenly retorted to an insult about her long legs by saying to the guineafowl:

 

“Oh, so then why don’t you use your short fluffy feet to run down and get a drink for yourself- go on, that will make you the bravest animals of us all!”

 

The guineafowl huddled together, whispering in hushed tones. The other animals watched closely to see whether or not they would accept Kudu’s challenge.

After several minutes of frenetic consultation, the guineafowl formed a line and began to march down to the water’s edge.

 

Kudu and the other animals watched from a safe distance in disbelief. Heads held high, the guineafowl marched as determinedly as possible, keeping close together.

“I hope that Lion eats them,” muttered Kudu, “then we can go down and get some water.”

 

The column of guineafowl marched forward. A small fly landed on Lion’s tail, he flicked it sharply. The tension in the air fractured as the orderly flock of guineafowl transformed into feathery bundles of screaming terror. They flew back in every possible direction, scratching and screaming, trampling a small snake and scaring the baby warthogs.

 

Kudu and the impala laughed at the guineafowl, saying,”Oh my! How brave you were.”

“Brave! Brave!???” screamed the leader of the guineafowl, in between trying to catch his breath, “Why don’t you try? Go on! Now I challenge you!”

 

Kudu stepped back in surprise. All the other animals eyes were fixed on her- would she do it?

“So will you be called the bravest animal then?” said guineafowl in a sarcastic voice. Kudus are very proud and guineafowl knew this,- that was why he taunted her.

“All right then,” replied Kudu, “I’m going down to get a drink.”

 

She stepped out of the bushes, and marched slowly towards the edge of the pool. As she got closer, her steps grew shorter and shorter. Eventually, about halfway down, she was just placing one hoof in front of the other. The animals held their breath in the shadows. Kudu moved so slowly forward that the sun travelled through the sky and soon was shining in Lion’s face. Lion rolled over. This was too much for Kudu. She leapt backwards as high as she could and scampered back into the bushes knocking over several guineafowl.

 

“Oh my,” they laughed, “You got so much closer to the water than we did.”

The baboons sitting up in the tree also joined in. One of them laughed so hard he fell out of the tree and landed on his back in the dust. He lay there laughing, kicking his feet in the air.

“Ha ha hee hee hooooo ha ha hooooo he,” he chortled.

“Can you do any better?” asked Kudu, rolling him over with her shiny hoof.

 

Baboon sobered up instantly. Kudu stared at him, her eyes glowing. All the other animals watched- this was turning out to be quite an entertaining afternoon at the waterhole.

 

Baboon looked up towards the rest of his troop up in the trees. He wished he hadn’t laughed so hard. He knew though what he had to do- the family honour was at stake.

 

“Go on our son,” called the leader, “show them that we are the bravest and cleverest animals of all.”

“Yes sir,” Baboon replied, shuffling forward nudged by Kudu.

Baboon walked on tip toe towards the pool. The sweet water beckoned him, for a moment he forgot that there was a lion there and thought that he could make it. He forgot to watch where he was going.

 

He stepped on a twig, it snapped loudly- all the animals gasped. Lion opened one eye to see what it was. All he saw was a puff of dust where Baboon had been standing. He rolled over and went back to sleep.

 

In the bushes, the troop had descended from their tree to comfort their terrified son. Kudu and the other animals stood around shaking their heads.

“We have to find someone who isn’t afraid of Lion,” she said to the other animals, “there must be someone here who can go down and get some water.”

 

The animals looked at each other- who would it be, they all wondered silently. Kudu looked at Impala, Impala looked at Ostrich, Ostrich looked back at Kudu. As the animals exchanged glances, a tiny voice shouted to make itself heard.

 

It was Singing-Ant.

 

Singing-Ant climbed up into a bush and in her loudest, most musical voice declared, “I will go down and get some water!”

 

All the animals turned to look at her in disbelief. There was a moment of silence, then they began to laugh. Kudu laughed so hard she fell on the ground, the baboons laughed until tears rolled down their cheeks.

 

“You are so small and weak,” giggled the guineafowl, “you’ll be crushed in an instant.”

“All Lion has to do is cough and you’re finished,” said Ostrich laughing so hard that several feathers fell out of his tail.

 

Singing-Ant watched them without a word. She simply climbed down from the bush and walked out towards the water. Most of the animals carried on laughing, a few stood up to watch. Wh
en she was halfway down, Kudu said,

“Any minute now she’ll come scurrying back.” The other animals nodded their heads in agreement. Singing-Ant carried on, oblivious to the teasing. As she got closer and closer to Lion, fewer animals laughed at her from the bushes. Soon she was just a foot away from his mighty paws. Now all the animals were silent.

 

“That’s it,” said Kudu, “Lion will finish her off.”

Singing-Ant stepped forward. The animals watching trembled.

Ostrich fainted and had to be fanned by his wives.

Baboon covered his eyes with his hands, “I can’t bear to watch,” he said, peeping through a gap in his fingers.

 

Singing-Ant carried on, she walked right over Lion’s paws and down to the water’s edge. Once there she bent down and drunk as deeply as she could.

 

All the animals in the bushes wanted to cry- they could not believe that Singing-Ant, the smallest amongst them had made it down to the water. If her courage had shocked them, what she did next surprised them even more. Singing-Ant plucked a leaf from the low branches that touched the water. She rolled it into a cone and held it in her jaws. Then bending down, struggling to keep her balance, she filled it with water, hoisted it up and wobbled back with her heavy load towards the thirsty animals.

 

“I brought you some water,” said Singing-Ant.

 

The animals stood around in an embarrassed silence wishing they hadn’t laughed at her. Finally Kudu stepped forward,

“We’re sorry that we laughed at you, we really are, please forgive us.”

“Yes, yes, please forgive us,” the other animals echoed.

 

“You are the BRAVEST animal!” shouted Giraffe and he lifted Singing-Ant and her leaf of water up. Singing-Ant smiled shyly as the animals cheered, then she whispered in Giraffe’s ear. He nodded and reached down tipping his head so that Singing-Ant could place a drop of water from her leaf on each parched tongue. The animals cried in gratitude at her generosity.

 

Singing-Ant simply picked up her leaf, called to her sisters and marched down to the water again.

 

“She really is the bravest animal,” said Kudu.

“Learn from her act of kindness,” said the oldest baboon…

“That is her strength!”

 

 

 

(Hope that you enjoyed the story, please feel free to share it with your friends and family. All the very best wishes to the readers, bloggers and creatures great and small who are part of WildlifeDirect, Peace!)

 

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A few flowers…

Hello – as an excuse for not posting, here are some flowers from the plains for you to enjoy. As the saying goes: “A thing of beauty…” commelina-kit-lr1.jpgjusticia-kitlr1.jpgcommelina-reptens1-lr.jpggladiolus-ukambanensis-lr1.jpg 

A surprise visitor…

Was dozing reading and making some notes the other day when this surprise visitor dropped in.I guess I can use it as an excuse for not posting more often! More soonDinodesk-house-snakelr1.jpgdesk-house-snakelr2.jpg 

More rainforest insects…

Here are some more pictures of weird and wonderful insects from Kakamega Forest. Many thanks to everyone for their comments: Maina, Sheryl and Kevin. I will be posting more about useful insects soon. Basically in the rainforest – every insect can be considered useful. Even the parasites are important as they help keep the numbers of other creatures in check. Here are some colourful flies that I photographed in the forest – they were hanging around where some colobus monkeys were napping… fly-kakamega-lr1.jpg  fly-kakamega-lr4.jpg  There were also lots of little grasshopper nymphs around, including this cute little fellow: hopper-kakamega-lr1.jpg  In the evening, just before a thunderstorm broke over the forest, I spotted this lovely skipper butterfly sipping nectar from flowers. The flower is an Impatiens sp, which grows along the forest paths in shady spots. It seems to be pollinated by skipper butterflies primarily. The globular sphere in the background is a seed pod that is just about to burst. The pods explode when ready – at the slightest touch – sending the seeds flying into the forest. No matter how many times I’ve popped them, it’s always a surprise to feel the pod springing to life! Most flowering plants rely on insect pollinators in order to be pollinated and set seed or fruit… skipper-impatienslr1.jpg      

Rainforest insects…

Have just been travelling in Western Kenya on fieldwork. Spent a few days in the wonderful Kakamega forest, where the heady mixture of rain and sunshine has seen an explosion of insect life. Here are some of the pictures of the amazing and beautiful forest creatures.The strangest creatures I came across were these very cool bugs, flatid bug nymphs, who sit together in gregarious ‘nurseries’. They are very touchy and hop off like little rockets at the slightest disturbance so I had to move like a chameleon in order to photograph them! Their fluffy tails are waxy filaments that serve as a means to clog up the mouth of any would-be predator while the little nymph escapes! flatid-kmegalr1.jpg  flatid-kmegalr2.jpg  There were some interesting flies around – including this ‘Daddy-long-legs’ – a species of cranefly, who came along to sample some of the mashed banana mix that I was using to attract butterflies… cranefly-kakamega-lr1.jpg The butterflies eventually showed up – among the most striking was a pair of ‘Lurid Gliders’, as they are known – the female is the brown and white-spotted one, the male is the one with the golden yellow wings… cymothoe-luridalr2.jpg cymothoe-luridalr3.jpg Some butterflies preferred the edges of puddles to sip from…papilio-lormieri1.jpgswallowtails-kakamegalr1.jpg And some had tastes running to less appetising things!kakamega-bfly-feast-lr1.jpg There were a lot of ants around too. Among my favourite ants in the forest are these lumbering gentle ants, Polyrachis, who move slowly along the trunks and leaves of trees. They spend a lot of time seemingly pondering the mysteries of life, while basking in the sunshine, like this one was…  polyrachis-kakamega-lr1.jpg More from the wonderful world of insects soon – thanks to everyone for your kind comments and interest and sorry for not posting more often!  

More Gorilla bugs (and gorillas)

After meeting the giant earthworms and the flying caterpillar we emerged from the dark, damp tangled bamboo forest into a thick morass of vegetation made up of herbs, wildflowers, high-altitude grasses and most noticeable of all – stinging nettles. Some of the wildflowers in this zone of vegetation are lovely gems. Many are endemic to the area. Below are some pictures of them.

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The nettles were everywhere along the path. Each leaf and stem of the nettles is dotted with sharp glass-like hairs. These are actually tiny hypodermic needles each one connected to a poison gland that pumps out their venom when the sharp end of the ‘needle’ punctures your skin! It burns for hours on end – especially if you accidentally brush against one of the giant stinging nettles with their extra-large needles.

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Despite their formidable armature, the smaller species of nettle are actually edible. They are in fact one of the Mountain Gorilla’s foodplants, alongside some 200 other species of plants that grow on these lush mountains. They can also be cooked as a vegetable and are quite delicious when prepared in milk with a dash of butter – I’ve had them in Western Kenya and Uganda. Clover also grows here – in lush carpets with purple flowers. It provided a nice relief to the spikes and stings on the other plants!

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We continued along the path, which continued to climb, but less steeply than through the bamboo. Progress was steady, punctuated by muttered cries of pain, as every now and then one of us made contact with the stinging nettles. And it was not just the nettles who were out to get us. Some of the other plants were also armed with sharp spiny leaves, such as the Acanthus and thistles which grew into miniature trees up here closer to the sun and watered by abundant rain.

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Not all the plants were on the attack, and I spent a few minutes adoring some of the giant lobelias. These incredible plants are related to common wildflowers that everywhere else grow just a couple of inches tall, but here on East Africa’s high mountains they are magically transformed into floral giants.

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Finally, after a solid two-hour hike through nettles and their friends, we caught up with the trackers who were waiting in the shade of a young rosewood tree. They told us that the gorillas were just ahead, feeding on a flank of the mountain, Bisoke (also called Visoke) that we were on.

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We left our bags and walking sticks behind and followed Francis, our amazing guide, up the slope. Within minutes we saw the bushes moving and saw fuzzy black forms darting in and out of view.

 

My heart was pounding as we got closer and closer. And then, suddenly, we were right there, among them! The first individual I got a good look at was the grand old Silverback (the alpha male gorilla), who leads the family group. Below is the view that we had of him. He continued feeding ignoring us completely. We were stunned and awed by his presence, but I’m not sure that he was even the slightest bit impressed with us! If he did think anything of us, he certainly didn’t show it, only turning his massive head towards us once before returning to peeling nettles.

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Francis beckoned us to follow him, which was easier said than done, as we were on a tangled slope in the thick of nettles. There was no solid ground underfoot either, we walked on a springy mass of vines and nettle-stems, trying to keep our balance and respectful distance from the gorillas (who were not as observant of this rule).

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We stood quietly among the gorillas, watching them feed. Imagine living in a giant field of your favourite foods – that basically sums up the gorilla habitat. Here’s a close-up of the seeding part of the wild celery that they love to eat.

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They move about slowly and gently break off branches and twigs to nibble on. The wild celery is one of their favourites, and they carefully peel its pithy skin off the juicy stems, before munching it. I watched one individual sitting in a patch of wild celery, feeding for several minutes.

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It is so moving to see them feeding and moving about so carefree and peaceful. The fact that these incredible creatures are still on this planet is something that none of us can take for granted. Looking into their eyes I felt more human and more aware that we are but one species on a planet with millions of other wonderful creatures who all deserve to live and thrive, and to whom we are intricately and inextricably linked.

  

How improbably wonderful that we as humans, despite all our blundering and madness, still have our dear cousins, the gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos here with us in the world today. Somehow, despite all the odds against them, they too have survived and we must do everything that we can to make sure that they, and all the other species too, are here for future generations to marvel at. If you meet a fellow great ape you will realise that without them we would be very lonely, for in them one sees so much of ourselves: compassion, friendship, family, kindness, playfulness, unbridled joy and even curiosity.

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A short time later, parts of the family settled down around their ‘daddy’ the silverback for a short snooze. Again I was struck by the peaceful sense of family and shared group bond that they had. In fact, it makes one wonder which species, ours or theirs, has a more developed sense of family? In their interactions there is little posturing, just pure gentleness and love between the family members. Even the massive silverback tolerated the playful youngsters jumping all over him as he tried to take a nap.

 

This family is known as the Amahoro group, which means ‘peaceful’ as Francis our ranger informed us. They were so named because of all they gorilla groups habituated for human visitation, they were the most calm and peaceful (There was a slight lapse in this when one of the gorillas gently cuffed one of our party, Craig Hatkoff, and the same individual also took a playful swipe at one of the guides).

One of the most intimate moments with these incredible creatures was when watching them snooze under a green umbrella of vines and leaves, Francis grabbed my arm and said: “Look, there is the mother with the young baby!”

 

Moving my gaze from the bright sunshine into the shadows, it took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust. And there before me was one of the most moving scenes of the entire visit. A mother gorilla cradled her young infant in her arms as he nursed at her breast. Her hands were so massive, with callused black palms, but they held the tiny infant with such gentle tenderness. She looked up at me gently as I fumbled with the camera. I felt very much like a voyeur. All the other gorillas did was roll over and grunt as if to say “There they go again, those silly humans clicking away…”

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I sat down nearby and continued to watch them. The baby gorilla soon fell asleep, though he did cough a little bit (you can hear the recording of this and other amazing gorilla sounds on Paula’s outstanding podcast about the trip on the WildlifeDirect Baraza blog).

 

Of course, being a scientist, my feelings of adulation and awe were spiced with curiosity and I kept looking around at the bugs. Yes, even in the presence of gorillas I will look for insects – I am a true insect-lover! It was especially amazing to see the many different kinds of flies that settled on and around the gorillas.

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There were so many different kinds, many of them difficult to get pictures of, but here are some of the species that were closest to the gorillas.

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The commonest flies were ‘Green-bottles’ and their relatives, who settled both on the massive hairy bodies and the fresh dung. Most of these looked like they were in the genus Chrysomya.

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There were also a number of blood-sucking flies, similar to Horse-flies, that are likely to be sucking blood from the gorillas. These flies may not just be pests of the gorillas, they visit flowers in large numbers too and are pollinating some of the plants that the gorillas feed on. There is so much to learn from the other incredible creatures, no matter how tiny, obscure or even ‘gross’, as they too are part of the ecosystem that the gorillas live in. And so, if there’s one lesson from this incredible meeting that I would like to share, it is that we cannot undervalue even a single species with whom we are privileged to share the earth. They all matter. We need them all, and we should love, and care about them all, from giant gorillas to tiny flies.

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One thing I must do is thank all the wonderful people who made this trip possible. First a big Asante to Craig Hatkoff for the kind invitation, and to the rest of the amazing team: Juliana, Ben, Noah, Joe, Bill, Brian; Beth, Eric and Jennifer for being such good organisers, and especially to our great ranger-guide Francis (in the picture below), and all of the people in Rwanda involved in protecting the mountain gorillas, and to Paula (on the left in the second picture below!), for her patience with me stopping to look at insects all the time!

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More soon – currently in Mwanza, Tanzania on the shores of Lake Victoria looking at ant-acacias and other amazing creatures.

PS-Sorry for not posting this sooner. It’s taken me some time to get all the pictures and other stuff sorted. And many thanks to everyone who reads and sends comments. Please forgive me if I don’t respond immediately – I am still learning how to use the blogging software and all the different aspects of the blog that I need to manage.

Gorilla bugs

The mountain gorillas live on the slopes of some of the steepest volcanoes in Africa. The volcanic range is part of the immense Albertine Rift Valley. This is part of the Rift Valley system that cuts down across the continent of Africa. Due to the volcanic activity and sinking and rising of parts of the continental plate, some of the most diverse and dramatic landscapes have formed as a result.

The flanks of the mountains and volcanoes in East Africa are covered with distinctive bands of vegetation that change as you move higher up the slopes. At lower altitudes there is dense forest, with montane forest where the trees are covered with moss and ferns above this. From the montane forest if you keep climbing you enter a zone of giant bamboo.

The bamboo grows in dense stands with very little else growing in between. The tall, sombre culms rise from a thick leaf litter that is churned into rich mud where hooves have trampled it. Sunlight is filtered by the overarching tapestry of leaves, and the result is a diffuse, cathedral like quality that is mostly silent, save for the occasional creaking or hollow knock when the wind gently stirs some shoots.

The rich, thick leaf litter that forms beneath the bamboo is a perfect home for many different creatures that like damp and dark places. We found one of these as we climbed up the steep path. I heard Paula cry out “Oh – what’s that? It’s disgusting!” Of course, being a good biologist she then picked it up. It was part of a (baby) giant earthworm.

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These are one of several giant earthworms that can be found in the high altitude vegetation of the Albertine Rift. They can grow up to a several feet long, and are more hard and rubbery than their smaller more familiar cousins.

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In some particularly damp places the earthworms even live on trees that have thick layers of moss growing on them! We only found baby earthworms crawling on the surface of the leaf litter. Their much bigger parents were hidden deeper in the thick humus. These worms were also much faster moving than the more common smaller species. They wriggled like snakes using their powerful muscles to twist out of my hands as I tried to photograph them.

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After watching the magnificent earthworms, we walked on and on along the steep path through the bamboo. At one point there the leaves above shook vigorously and some of the bamboo stems waved about. A loud cry “Niiaooow- chuck” echoed from the crashing leaves. This was a Golden Monkey, a species endemic to the area. I only managed a few glimpses of the monkeys as they were extremely shy.

We carried on to the steepest section. Here you had to use all your strength and limbs to keep moving up the path. The mud was slippery and luckily the bamboo made nice handholds. After what seemed like ages we stopped to rest in a small glade.

As I searched for insects on flowers I noticed a flash of light zipping down from the canopy. I moved closer. It dropped again, this time to about eye level. A gentle wind picked rustled through the glade and the creature calmly drifted to and fro. What could this be? Who can levitate so effortlessly?

The breeze died down, and the creature came to rest perfectly still in mid-air! Now I could see that it was suspended by the thinnest of threads. This was a caterpillar absailing down from the canopy. Perhaps it was startled by a hungry bird and using its silken ‘safety rope’ had bungee-jumped off the leaves high above. I guess if you’re about to be eaten it’s worth the risk!

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We had to move on, as there was still a lot of ground to cover before we got to the gorillas…

 

More about meeting the gorillas and the other incredible ‘dudus’ living with them soon!

Africa distilled

I am currently in Rwanda with Paula Kahumbu from WildlifeDirect and Dr Craig Hatkoff, who together with his daughter co-authored a book about Owen and Mzee and more recently, on a baby gorilla. This has been an amazing trip and I don’t even know where to start. One of the main reasons for coming here was to look for new species of insects associated with the mountain gorillas and their precious habitats. This will be a long term project and I’m hoping to just help out right now with developing the preliminary butterfly checklist. The pictures in this post show the volcanoes of the Volcanoes National Park and some typical views of the countryside.

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Rwanda is an amazing, beautiful, green and peaceful country. The country is currently making huge strides in development, stability and a safe and secure place for investment and development. It is so different from the drylands of Kenya. The landscape is made up almost entirely of rolling hills that tumble down to beautiful lakes, with the spectacular Virunga volcanic range on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ugand in the northwest, and the vast, muggy Akagara swamp-savannah in the East towards the border with Tanzania.

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The Virunga volcano chain is one of Africa’s most spectacular massifs. They rise from the hilly plain high up into the sky, strewn with mist and cloud more than half the time. Their forested flanks are home to the incredible mountain gorillas, who along with the chimpanzee and bonobo are humankind’s closest surviving relatives on the planet. When the clouds shift, the steep volcanic cones are briefly visible, their mottled flanks farmed up to the very edge of the Parc des Volcans (Volcanoes National Park). This truly is ‘Africa distilled’ as the author Isak Dinesen summed up the equatorial highlands of Africa. It is bright and sunny, yet never hot, and crisply cool at night – just the most perfect weather in my opinion!

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From the little that I’ve seen of the countryside so far, what’s most impressive is the intensity and diversity of the cultivation. As a landlocked country in the heart of Central Africa with a population of over 9 million people, Rwanda needs to work very hard to feed its people. Basically every square inch of land that can be cultivated is. And the farms are incredible, perched on terraced slopes and carved out of rock and floodplains.

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So many different crops are grown in gorgeous mosaic of intensive cultivation. Beans, maize, rice, potatoes, cassava, wheat, tree tomatoes, passion fruits, papaya, mangoes… the list is endless. The combination of equatorial sunshine, fertile volcanic loam soils and industrious people make for an incredibly productive agrarian system, allowing both tropical and temperate crops to be cultivated side by side. (Both Paula and I have been gorging on the fruit, especially the extra-yummy tree tomato juice!).

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There’s lots and lots to write about, especially the wonderful insects and plants and of course the gorillas – more on that soon! So look out for my next post will highlight the amazing insects of this unique volcanic part of Africa

“Go to the ant….”

One of the most resonant quotes from the bible comes from King Solomon crying out to his people: “Go to the ant, you sluggard. Consider her ways, and be wise” (Book of Proverbs 6:6)

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I have recently been looking very closely at some of the most marvelous and industrious of all little creatures – ants. These are harvester ants and I look forward to sharing more with you about them in the near future…

And many thanks to everyone for the comments and questions – I will respond more fully to some of these soon.