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Published: January 27th 2010
Greetings all. Sorry I haven’t updated for a while but electricity is a precious resource here and when you only have 1 hour of charge in your laptop and several hours of data to enter, blogs end up taking a backseat. The feet are starting to get slightly better, thank goodness! Thank you for all your 'get well soon' wishes :-) I spent several days sitting around at camp, reading trashy novels and feeling sorry for myself before the swelling subsided. I now have feet that don’t look like balloons - huzzah! For the past few days I’ve been going out on short warm-up hikes. On Friday I went scouting for tamarins for a couple of hours, the next day I managed five hours of scouting and on Sunday I had my first experience of a full day in the field.
During my days off recuperating I had forgotten how bad it is to trek off trail in the early morning darkness. Before we even got to the sleeping tree the new group were using I managed to spear my knee on a bamboo spike. Yes, bamboo is spiky, a fact that I learnt pretty quickly upon arriving in the Peruvian Amazon! Not only do these spikes hurt but they also do something to the area around the puncture. Within a few minutes my knee started stiffening up, making climbing over all sorts of vegetation painful and even slower than normal. I had planned to stay out for 7 hours, an increase of 2 hours on the day before. However I ended up staying for the full 12 hours, not because my feet were comfortable with the walking but because I couldn’t escape!! I think the Tamarins knew my intentions and purposely moved through the parts of their range that were most inaccessible and therefore most difficult to get back to camp from. It was also incredibly tough terrain. Gideon even commented on how he couldn’t remember such a difficult day of following. This should have made me feel better but after 12 hours I couldn’t really feel anything!
On Monday I had the morning off to do more data entry (will it ever end?!) and then that afternoon, Rhea and I were supposed to be putting up new baiting platforms in spots where the new groups have been seen feeding and resting over the past two days. However, Rhea and Kat were following the main group and Rhea managed to lose the GPS at some point so we spent the afternoon going over the area with a fine toothed-comb. At one point we had 9 people looking! Eventually Emeterio, one of the Peruvian researchers, found it. I’m sure you could hear Rhea’s squeals of joy as far away as Lima!!
As we didn’t get to put the traps up on Monday, Gideon, Rhea and I put them up yesterday. This jungle somehow seems to defy the laws of physics as we seemed to spend the whole day trekking up hill. At one point we were climbing up a river bank that was probably a slope of 170 degrees, clinging onto mud and tree roots, praying not to slide backwards!!! That was a very tiring day. After each exhausting and difficult day I think to myself, “Well, that was hard but tomorrow will definitely seem easier” but somehow each day just seems harder! Oh well. I guess such is the life of a field Primatologist.
As putting up the traps didn’t take all day there was an exciting excursion down river to pick pacai fruit for the traps in the afternoon. The boat was a dug-out with a motor, which seemed rather cool when I was sitting comfortably with all my appendages inside. When we pulled up by the river bank, leaned out to pull the fruit off the tree and the boat started swaying wildly, it wasn’t quite so much fun! Thankfully I survived to tell the tale but I shall never look at a pacai in the same way.
Over the past few days we have had unseasonably dry weather so we were owed a BIG storm. It came last night and carried on right through to lunchtime. This meant a wonderful thing - a lie in!! Granted it was only until 6am but two extra hours in bed makes a world of difference. We also got the treat of inputting more data(!) but with the slight change of listening to the surprisingly large collection of show tunes on Gideon’s ipod! This afternoon, once the rain cleared up, I went out to follow the main group (FC) with Erin and Karina. I was following the twins for about two hours and I now feel confident in telling them apart - not easy when they are about the size of my fist and can be up to 20 m away up in the top of the trees. We also saw something rather odd. The last remaining male in the group, and Father of the twins, was mating with a female we all assumed was his older daughter that was still living in the group to help rear the latest set of twins. We don’t have the genetics done yet so can’t be sure that he is her Father but it shocked us a bit at the time!
On that incestuous note I shall end this post. Hopefully it won’t be such a long time before I get the chance to update again. For those of you who want to know more about the project you can read Mini’s blogs on the project’s website www.primatesperu.com or join the Primates Peru face book group.
Lots of love
Emma and the monkeys
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