A while back I wrote about the progress being made on the bonobo research and conservation center in our Congo Heartland. I'm joining a 15 person expedition organized by Jef Dupain, director of the Heartland, to visit the site, check on construction as it nears completion, install a VSAT internet connection, and prepare some media buzz for its opening.
The next day (October 31), John Varty (JV), Andy Coetzee, Francois Botha, Hendri and I went out to bait the cages.
JV is famous for his work with big cats and his tiger project down in the Karoo. Andy has more than twenty years of experience working with wildlife and has also been in the army. Francois and Hendri are cameramen who will be filming the events for National Geographic Live, which will be airing live in 166 countries worldwide from Sunday November 9th until Saturday November 15th.
Day 1 (October 30th)
At 07:00, Johan Malan of the Game Capture Unit from South African National Parks Board (SANParks), together with three assistants, brought four cage traps to the Singita Concession. The cage traps would be used to capture two leopards, a male and a female, for collaring. Thomas Ramabulana, the section ranger from this area allowed four of his staff to come and help. In total, there were nine of us. Aeron and Francois also tagged along.
We've been following the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where rebels took command of Virunga National Park's headquarters. What about the rangers and the mountain gorillas? Jamie from IGCP sent me this news:
"There are still 52 park staff in the Mikeno Sector [the sector of the park where the mountain gorillas live], and 22 rangers monitoring the gorillas. The rangers have continued to go out on a daily basis. Information, however, has had difficulty flowing from the area due to the recent troubles.
Staff of the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) have been evacuated from DR Congo, as things remain tense between the Congolese army and rebel militia.
Staff were moved from the office in Goma across the border to the town of Gisenyi in Rwanda.
From IGCP's Jamie in Rwanda: