Thursday, September 20, 2012

Up to our eyeballs in baby elephants

An overabundance of adorable baby elephants is not exactly a bad problem to have, I will tell you that. I am really digging the whole living among wildlife thing (then again I’m not trying to grow crops in the footpaths of elephants or raise cattle in prime lion hunting territory so I may get back to you on that).

There is one species that I’m not so keen on: Our friendly neighborhood olive baboon. No seriously they’re neighborhood baboons. They live in the camp and roam around like squirrels run around Purdue. They usually don’t bother the students too much, but have recently have become a bit bolder. 

And sometimes when they hold formal meetings, I get REALLY suspicious...

When they used to move out of the paths as soon as they saw a student, baboons will wait around longer and longer. It probably doesn’t help that the majority of people living in KBC are white women and, well, to be really honest, the ranking of who baboons are afraid of looks a little like this:

1.     African men
2.     White men
3.     African women
4.     White women

So we pretty much can’t be any less threatening to the baboons. I did have a funny moment with one the other day, though. The baboons were out in full force, enjoying their midafternoon forage. I was minding my own business in the library and decided to run to the bathroom. As I was exiting the bathroom, I was greeted by a baboon walking up the footpath to the showers and toilets. I was clearly startled and half-stepped, half-stumbled back. Amusingly enough though, the baboon seem just as startled to see me come through the door of the bathroom and half-stepped, half-stumbled backwards. Maybe the baboons and I aren’t so different. Maybe I’m reading too much into this baboon encounter. Probably the latter.

Besides learning to cohabitate with baboons, I’ve been pretty busy the past few days. We are definitely entering the full swing of things here at camp. Tuesday was our first non-program day, Wednesday was our first trip to a national park. Tomorrow is our first field exercise, and next week we have our first assignment due! I’m gonna do this a bit backwards and talk about Amboseli first and do my write up of our non-program day later because I do what I want, that’s why. No it’s actually because I don’t really have  (any) pictures to go with our non-program day unless you want pictures of me rolling around in the exorbitant amount of fabric I bought at the market and I feel bad doing two no-pictures post in a row.

"We know counting is really hard so we decided to stand close to the land cruiser for you. Twenty-two is a big number"

Anyway. Amboseli. Totally awesome. Even in my third trip to this continent, the novelty of going on a game drive never wears off on me. Amboseli is mostly grassland, scrubland, and open Acacia woodland and was fairly open for most of the time. It was nice to pull out the antelope-ID skills and start the Thompson’s vs Grant’s vs Impala discussions again. I remembered how tough it can be to stay on top of our field exercises, though. Sometimes we’ll get so carried away seeing and taking pictures of something cool that we’ll forget that we actually need to count, age, sex, take GPS coordinates, etc. of all the animals we’re seeing. Yesterday wasn’t an official count, thankfully. I need to work a bit on my identification of social structures before we go out again.

Favorite bit of the day? Definitely the look on everyone’s faces as we hopped out of the land cruisers at the gate and everyone saw their first elephant(s). The enthusiasm in this group will carry us far. Oh, and we saw two lions. That was pretty neat too. 

It is a little known fact that lions only come out when the lighting is poorest. Trufax.

(Just kidding, the lions were completely awesome as well. It was just kind of late and SFS vehicles can’t drive after 6:30 PM and the lions were getting a bit crowded by other safari cars so we didn’t stay to watch them too long).

Also baby elephants.

Anyway I need to sleep as I had to get up at 5:45 to cook breakfast since we were leaving early for a field lecture. Ah, the joys of cook crew!

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