Bonobo radio: “We always carry a machete with us…”

10 July 2013 by Kerstin Hoppenhaus, posted in Primatology

There is news from the Iyaka team, Matthis and Rodolphe, who are in DR Congo right now to survey bonobo populations for an eco-tourism project.

Barbara Fruth, their supervisor at the institute, talked to them via satellite phone yesterday. They have built their camp at the new location, closer to their study site than the institute’s main camp in LuiKotale, and they have cut the first 15 transects in the south of the study area, close to the river. Along the riverbanks the ground is swampy and again and again the two young scientists had to wade through waist deep water in order to complete the prescribed transects. „It’s tough“, says Barbara, who has done this kind of fieldwork herself for decades, „but we have to stick to the transects. It’s the only way to get reliable results.“

Rodolphe and Matthis also sent an email earlier this week:


Dear Barbara,

We have well received your message of thursday 4th, thank you for the  flight, that will be very usefull. All is going well around here. We started a new rotation with Alima as a  fisherman and Neto as a cook. Mangos will finish his work the 7th of July. We have censused Meike 7 and 8 and we are still cutting more transect in the south west corner. Densities of animal marks are lower compared to Lui Kotale transects. We usually cut 2 transects a day, we thought 3 a day to be doable but lianas, rivers, falling trees and Haumania make things slower.
We mostly use secators but we always carry a machete with us, as it is really necessary in some situations.

Every Tuesday, one of us stays at camp to wait porters and the other goes mapping main roads in order to facilitate next work. We named each transect as it is very handy on the field. Each column has a  letter from A to G and each row has a number from 1 to 28 ( for example,  the first priority goes from A6 to F20). We will use other kinds of habitat categories, like recently burned  savanas or forest camp undercover.

We struggle a bit for monkeys direct sightings, we tried to use the  Buckland and Plumtre method (recording each individual instead of the  group) and we tried to record monkey groups, but it can be very hard.  Monkey groups are often composed by 2 or more specie and if they are far away or if the canopy is very dense, we can only see shadows, moving  branches, a tail... It is almost impossible to estimate the species of  each individual, or to estimate the number of individuals for each  species. The distance estimation can also be quite harsh... Well, accuracy is pretty hard to get, we will do our best.

For the money, we made an estimation for next months :
xxx* for the cook
xxx for the fisherman
xxx for laundry
xxx for the field worker
xxx Porter
xxx Food supply
xxx Smoked Fish (very expensive)
xxx (20kg) for a month Palm Oil
xxx special expenses (mortier...)


We will enclose the monthly report. Please also find attached the data related to the Meike transect South Lokoro (Me1 to Me6). As you will see, we did record habitats for each encounter... there are quite a lot! For the nest decay data, almost all nests are currently stage 3 or 4. They will certainly be all stage 4 in the next weeks. We will send you these files as soon as it is done.
Do you already know if there will be a flight end of August? One of us will be at camp on Tuesday 9th, is it fine to arrange a call?We send another message with rest of data. It's too big for one email

Matthis and Rodolphe

* The amounts aren't public,  but l think, the list of items and people for running a camp in the jungle is still interesting.


All posts about Matthis' and Rodolphe's adventures in the jungle are collected here.




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