Know when to walk away . . .

. . . Know when to run. Kenny Rogers was talking about playing cards but its equally applicable to collecting data. Yesterday was one huge data collection disaster. The day started off fine, we found Kingo. Roberta went off with her tracker to find Ugly, the first female of the day. Since Kingo is so far away from camp by the time we find him in the morning we have to start data collection really quickly or we run out of time to do two hours for each follow. No females were close to Kingo. We saw Fini but she quickly ran away. Roberta found Mama. Then no one. Then she saw Emilie and Mekome but they were even further away. After an hour and a half they gave up searching for Ugly and started on another female, we’d only manage one data point for the morning. We eventually found Ugly far away from Kingo and far away from the other females who were feeding as a group. Part of my data collection is to record the proximity of the females. While going on a control I was following my tracker and suddenly there was this massive explosion of pain on my forehead. My tracker turns round and sees me and says run run, I was standing underneath a wasp nest and about to get stung by millions of them. Luckily all I got was that one because that was the most painful sting I’ve ever had. I spent the rest of the morning thinking “Is my tongue swelling up? Has the side of my face gone numb?” it was that painful. Or maybe I’m just a wuss. And then Kingo was acting skittish because the females were far ahead and going towards a bokoko fruit tree where Roberta and her tracker found traces of other gorillas. He charged Mekome. He charged Mkpeta and Roberta twice. He charged Mekome again so viciously that everyone was screaming and Mekome turned round and chased him back screaming and trying to hit him. Which actually looked hysterical, first we saw Kingo running after her in one direction then 10 seconds later he’s running back in the other direction being chased by her.

We were scheduled to do all day. Time is running out for data collection so we had this feeling “no we have to keep on going!”. After stopping for lunch the other team of trackers hadn’t yet turned up to relieve the morning team so we push on, the morning team starting to do the afternoon follows. The females were all ahead of Kingo again. When the afternoon team turned up we had to locate each other by calling since I was working with a female far ahead in the Ebuka. Roberta came on the radio and said “Stop calling, Kingo is getting mad again.” So we stopped calling but the afternoon team was still calling us but since we had no radio communication with them my tracker starts doing shut up come here whistles to them but it didn’t sound like they were hearing them. Then out of the corner of my eye I see a flash of silver and its Kingo charging through the ebuka and once again he charges Mekome. By this stage it was one o’clock and it was quickly clouding over with ominous thunder clouds. Stung, charged, behind on data collection, working with a silverback who was clearly very mad at everyone, about to get rained on, we decided to call it a day and head back to the camp.

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