Uganda Wildlife Education Center - Entebbe, Uganda.
A post of photos. Electricity has been out for ages. Now it's back on, but am a bit tired, a bit full of beer, so without further verbal ado ... here are some chimp pics.
(1) The duet of toddlers. (2) Just like brother and sister humans, these 2 antagonize and provoke one another into playing and rough housing ... they could hardly be more human. (3) Fun with tires. (4) Tired little chimp after so much picking on his sister. (5) Playing with my hands.
A series of photos depicting the unlimited fun one can have with a metal bowl. So cute watching the progression of interest and ideas of how this thing might be used. Does this routine happen every day? A new epiphany every 24 hours? I have no idea. But it was ridiculously cute while I witnessed it.
It's hard to tell, but in the above photo, the dish is actually on a narrow ledge ... a pretty precarious spot for one to be sitting in a dish upon. And sure enough, about a minute after I took this photo, dish and chimp both came tumbling down with a great clatter and much surprise on the chimp's part. Priceless.
Uganda Wildlife Education Center - Entebbe, Uganda.
I keep thinking things are going to slow down and I won’t have so much to share and can ease up on the posting. But instead I’m falling behind. Let’s begin with the random fact that I tried raw sugar cane for the first time … it’s a very fibrous plant and you just suck the juice out of it. Delish! Next, I should let you know I may have to revise my bride price yet again. Now I’ve gotten an appraisal at 100 cows and 50 goats even in spite of my deficiencies.
And now a baby elephant! A rescued tot … he was found in the wild separated from his mother and family. The people who found him believed him to be permanently orphaned, so they brought him to the UWEC. Most of the animals here are rescued animals. Only a handful have been born in captivity. This little fellow is so hairy! I’ve never seen such a shaggy elephant. He’s simply precious, so teeny tiny. He is in quarantine for now at the vet clinic. They built a little stick pen for him inside the courtyard of the clinic building. Yesterday they brought in a truckload of sand for him to play in … he relished his little sand box and loved rubbing his face and body into it as hard as he could. They take him for walks across the road into a field for him to eat some leaves and grass. I’ve seen them cross the road, and it’s just adorable this tiny elephant trundling behind the keeper into the jungle. I hope I can spend more time with him getting some more photos.
That’s the stuff! Getting good and sandy…
His little legs and little feet just kill me. So cute!
Love how he trundles around the courtyard so tiny, poor sweet little orphan.
Look at the crazy whiskers sticking out along his trunk!
I know you’re wondering about the title of this post. What do I mean by chimpanzees at last, when I’ve been working with them since day 1. Well, what I mean is that it takes awhile to truly connect, and each day is more meaningful than the last, until you feel you have jumped a level in understanding and connection. Like any kind of relationship, I suppose.
You might think that the more you know somebody /something, the more you can say about them, that you will stack up more and more words and descriptions until you can paint them inside another person’s head with your words. But this is not the case. The deeper you know another, the more words fail. This knowledge bypasses the verbal command center into far deeper recesses of our brains, hearts and souls. Up to now I’ve been able to describe to you what I’ve done and how fun it is, how cute the chimps are, my feelings of joy, and a narrative of their behaviors and actions. And I’ll continue to do so, but now you should know that is no longer the extent of my personal interaction with these creatures, but I can’t explain it further than I have. I’ve watched them for hours now both on their island and in their nighttime cage. Watched them individually and as a group and as individual smaller social units, watched them in solitude, while playing, while stirring up trouble. I’ve held their hands and feet every day, fed them directly every day, scratched their backs and their heads and rubbed their ears, looked in their eyes inches from mine, let them wrap their warm soft lips around my fingers and suck them. Maybe that’s all I need to say.
I visited the 2 toddler chimps being held in the vet clinic. The aim is to introduce them to the rest of the chimps, but the integration process begins by putting the little ones in a separate cage from the troupe, with the 2 cages facing each other so first they can simply see one another, but right now the 2 baboons are taking up those cages. So until they can be moved, the chimp toddlers have to stay at the clinic. I have what I think is a cute series of photos of one them playing with a tin bowl … will try to get up soon. (a fair number of photos to size and post...) A couple pics of the toddlers:
Taking after Onapa ... all about the casual leisure pose.
Have you ever seen a chimp's foot up close? It looks so much like a hand! And has just as much dexterity.
Uganda Wildlife Education Center - Entebbe, Uganda.
I’ve seen them on television shows … the tornado-like funnels of bazillions of insects moving across Lake Victoria in plumes. Now I’ve witnessed them in person. Looking out over the lake during breakfast, I could see them. And by afternoon, I myself was engulfed in them. The sound is very loud as you approach a swarm. I was walking beneath a tree once and a large packet of insects just dropped out of the tree at my feet. I looked up to realize that the tree was completely taken over with these packets that engulf the leaves. Isaac told me not to swat at them or to swish them away with my hand, as this makes it worse. I noticed then, that nobody anywhere was trying to wave them away with their hand. “Just bend your head down and walk through.” They still get in your eyes and nose and mouth. Walking back from lunch with Bruce, he said, “You have to talk with your lips closed …” The one saving grace is that these buggers do not bite. They’re little gnat things that simply invade your orifices. Not particularly pleasant.
The vervets were really getting nasty today. Maybe the gnats get on their nerves as well. One tried to steal my breakfast again (I saved it), but he went to the next table and absconded with the sugar bowl. Eventually he broke it. For an outfit like this restaurant, that’s a fairly major blow, losing an item like that. I’m somewhat confident it was the only sugar bowl they had. Late in the day I came across the troupe and followed them about taking a few photos and one of them became very aggressive and attacked me! Good thing I had on pants rather than shorts. It was actually a bit scary.
It was apparently grooming hour … I came across numerous pairs or triplets grooming each other, and noticed that the groom-ee falls into a trance while being groomed. One monkey was lying down on his side in the road while another groomed his fur. After the groomer left, the monkey still didn’t move a muscle. I honestly thought it was dead. I walked up to it, and it was motionless. I was about to nudge it with my toe to make sure it was dead and suddenly it sprung up, scared the hooha out of me. Then I looked around and noticed the other monkeys being groomed looking like they’d checked out for awhile on heroin or something.
Today's conversation at the chimp house among the zookeepers centered around governments and corruption. Often we have downtime between when morning chores are finished and lunch. "Is there corruption in America?" they ask.
"Yes, of course," I say.
"There is??" they are slightly incredulous. If only their perception of America was real and we all had maids and consciences to bar corruption! OK, elephant and baby chimps coming soon, as promised on Facebook.
Uganda Wildlife Education Center - Entebbe, Uganda.
The chimps can be pretty hilarious the way they hoard food when it is thrown to them on the island. Often, they will gather an armload of food and then go off near or into the bushes to lay it down and then eat it in solitude. Henry said sometimes they even dig holes in the bushes and hide it for later. Matoke, the alpha male, is naturally adept at this. Yesterday Sara was very funny, grabbing food until her hands were completely full, and then she grabbed more with her feet. So she was sort of hobbling back to the bushes on her heels, chunks of cassava tucked into her toes.
Mmmm lots of goodies …
Matoke with a fistful. Second photo came out blurry, but you can still see how he has both hands completely stuffed plus some food already in his mouth. He just runs back and forth across the hillside gathering stuff and intimidating others out of their food.
Aluma, incognito and almost always by himself all day, finds a nice quiet spot to munch in.
Onapa looks on, waiting for the arena to clear before he heads over to forage the leftovers. He is often the last chimp to come for porridge as well.
Nepa often takes refuge in or on top of her tire swing. Being the littlest, she’s often chased away from food by the others.
Just love the facial expression on the right.
Today at breakfast I watched the rains come across the lake and over the islands. Isaac, who was sitting near me, said typically the rains come from different directions for the islands and the mainland. So if you see rain on the islands, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is coming to here, even though they’re hardly a stone’s throw away across the lake. Usually rains for the mainland come from a more northwesterly direction. However, a short while after that conversation, some spectacular thunder crashed overhead for awhile and then dropped a few bucketfuls of rain.
I may have undervalued myself in the last post, for I asked guy what he thought I could fetch as a bride price and received a wildly more optimistic number. But I can’t hoe the ground from dawn till dusk, don’t yet know how to make Ugandan food (though, since a lot of it is simply cooked and mashed fruit or vegetable, surely I can pick it up), and I can’t even pitch food very competently across a moat for hungry chimps. Nor can I cut sugar cane. At first, Robert had thought maybe 50 cows and 30 goats was a better price than 15 and 8, but after listing these deficiencies, he re-tallied to about 25 cows and 11 goats. And 2 chickens for being a mzungu. Being my closest friend and confidant, he explained rather bluntly the other guy was simply flattering me.
Oh, and Martha now has a boyfriend. I strongly disapprove.
It’s a good thing that drinking a beer and listening to an mp3 player are activities enjoyed equally well in the light or dark. The electricity goes out every day/night several times. I’ve started just wearing my flashlight around my neck around the house at night… at some point I will need it (mostly just to scout the floor to make sure Martha isn’t having a party with some friends or something …). Also nice that laptop runs for awhile on battery.
I’m starting to get the hang of Ugandan time. Generally, if you choose Time A for a meeting or event, it simply means that the meeting or event will take place at either Time A + 40 minutes, Time A + 2 hours, Time A + 27 hours, or Time A – 20 minutes. Though on occasion, it’s followed the devious route of Time A x pi / square root of the height of the nearest marabu stork.
So there are on the order of about 55 tribes and tribal languages in Uganda. Some languages are mutually intelligible, others are not. Customs are often similar but not always. When people tell me about how things are in Uganda, they typically start with a general statement, that is to say a broad type of behavior that is generally true of all or most Ugandans. Then they say, “In my tribe …” and go on to explain the details of the subject matter within the context of their own tribe. I’m not sure exactly why, but it’s a trip to me (and was in South Africa, too, except I only dealt really with the Zulu) that all the people around me dress like me, act like me, talk English around me, eat and drink like me, maybe live in a house like me (like mine here at UWEC), etc., and yet have this other-worldly existence within a tribe.
So today Robert informed me of marriage customs in his tribe, involving letters of intent, arranged meetings, and bride prices. He named a typical bride price which included some number of cows and goats, maybe chickens, and a type of clothing for both the mother and father of the bride, some money, and some misc. I wondered what people who live in cities pay, since they don’t have yards for cows and goats. Naturally, Robert laughed over this. Either a family member who lives in the country keeps animals for you on their land, or if the bride’s family also lives in a city, you can give the equivalent in cash. He asked me what was the penalty in Colorado for people cheating on their spouses. I said there really wasn’t one … it’s for the husband and wife to handle the situation between them. He was so shocked. He explained how in his tribe, if cheaters are caught, the man has to pay a fairly substantial fine to the woman’s husband/family. It’s presumed the man was responsible for luring the woman into his arms. Everybody in the community will know about it and the man has to pay some livestock and maybe throw a feast and drinks. And maybe despite that, he will end up with some strident enemies in the community. I believe Robert is more keen than ever to move to Colorado. Ha.
He is absolutely convinced that everybody in America has a maid. There are a fair number of things he refuses to believe about me. One is my age. Another is that I don’t have a maid. (believe me, I would love to have one!)
Today while throwing fruit across the moat for the chimps, one of them caught a mango directly from me, like catching a baseball. Was pretty sweet. Maybe I should say a little note here, as I’ve talked to some people here (visitors at the UWEC) and online who don’t really get why we don’t spend time with the chimps on their island. Perhaps someday I can snag some video of Matoke slamming open the door to the island as a brief illustration, and some pics of their mouths while I’m feeding them porridge so you can see their canines. Even 3-year old Nepa would probably be too big to handle. Sometimes when I give her my hand through the caging and she pulls it toward her, you can feel the strength even in her. But you know how I told you about the baboon snapping the broom handle … chimpanzees are far more powerful than baboons. Just trust me on this … it would be an exceedingly poor idea to saunter onto the island with 9 fully adult chimps and 2 young ones. These aren’t Hollywood chimps.
The enclosure with the shoebill stork also has a large population of weavers They’re loud all the time, but one night I was walking back home past their enclosure in the dark, and the sound coming from there was deafening, the combo of those birds and the frogs and insects … it’s a swampland environment … was unreal. It literally hurt my ears, actual pain was throbbing through them. Never have experienced anything quite like that. Was especially strange being in the dark. The shoebill ... taken almost at dark, so foliage is colored a little funky, but the bird really is blue. And huge ...
Pleasantly, sometimes you can hear the lions roaring. There are 2 females and a male. Today one of the females had fallen head-over-heels in love with the male and was desperate to get his attention, playfully attacking him, rolling around beside him, pushing the tire swing at him. Very cute.
A last note … I learned the efficacy of honey on burns. I managed to spill some boiling water onto my stomach today. It was quite painful. Henry produced a jar of honey and told me that spreading some on the burn would help the pain. So I made several applications of a dark honey over the next few hours, and sure enough. Nighttime now and it is merely a pink spot that is only the slightest bit tender.