A very belated Happy New Year to everyone in the Aigas community! Right now I’m sitting taking in the view over Lake Victoria listening to hundreds of birds and some very noisy chimps – I’m probably sitting in the same spot Kerri was 2 months ago when she wrote her blog. I am lucky enough to also be spending some time on Ngamba Island this winter.
Firstly some updates from the island: Eazy the infant is doing well. He is still being integrated with the main group. It’s a slow process but is going well. He still seems nervous around certain older members of the group, but he’s been observed having some good playing time with the alpha male, a very encouraging sign! A playing platform has been constructed for the chimps in Eazy’s enclosure. This is a small group who have less access to the forest, so the platform has been great enrichment for them! The other wildlife is just as stunning as the chimpanzees. I had the pleasure of watching the spotted neck otters two evenings in a row, and they are very charismatic creatures. The black flies are also very numerous- imagine the worst midge cloud you’ve ever seen and double it. Luckily they don’t bite! They are also a good food source for the hundreds of barn swallows on Ngamba. As Kerri mentioned previously the island is an oasis for many species as surrounding islands are heavily deforested. I’ve felt very lucky to take part in some wildlife monitoring during my time here (this included watching an African fish eagle for an hour). The data collected in this monitoring is used to inform the staff about the ecological health of the island and is also sent to members of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for research purposes. Currently there are two researchers from the MPI at Ngamba. They are studying different decision making aspects of the chimps – very interesting to observe. Some of the chimps display high intelligence and understanding, others less so.
Aside from my caregiving duties (mainly feeding and cleaning) I have been able to visit two neighbouring islands that are supported by the Chimpanzee Trust. The communities on these islands (Miandi and Kimi) are fishing communities and are made up of non-permanent homes largely. They are very densely populated areas. The trust has acted as a liaison with these communities to secure donations that have helped construct schools, hospitals, toilet blocks and water filtration systems. The relationship between the trust and these communities is very beneficial because it allows the trust to educate these communities on the importance of conservation and the environment. Ngamba island is very active in engaging with these communities, hosting open days where the people can visit for free and offering employment for gardening and laundry where they can. Very unfortunately, the community on Kimi experienced an enormous fire back in October, which has caused severe damage, most of which is still to be repaired. Houses have been destroyed as well as businesses. So, if anyone reading this is feeling generous and would like to make a donation to the repairs of this community then please get in touch with Ngamba Island and they will help you do so. If you’d like to make a donation that will benefit the chimps directly then have a look at their guardianship programme on the trusts website. When adopting a chimp you get regular updates of how the chimp is doing and information about how they came to be on the island.
Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Hoima Field Centre to see how the trust does environmental education in communities that live with wild chimps. Watch this space for updates!