So here we go, I am going to try and actually update people on what I am doing for once. Writing doesnt come naturally to me, and neither does talking about my life so I have a feeling these updates may be short and sweet 😉
I arrived in Accra last week and stayed with a lovely British couple for a couple of nights who work for the West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA) NGO. I tried to get to Kumasi on Saturday, but after over 90 minutes of all three of us standing in the sun trying to get a bus ticket we gave up.
So first thing Sunday morning I set off for the 5-hour bus journey. I am sure you guys are expecting me to tell you how I was crammed in like a sardine with chickens, pigs and screaming infants, that the driving, dust and heat almost killed me and how we broke down several times on the way. Well I am sorry to disappoint you but it was probably the most comfortable bus journey of my life! the air-con worked perfectly, it was quiet, the toilet was clean, we stopped for food regularly and briefly, it was as smooth as could be. I like Ghana.
I am staying in the Ministry of Forestry’s guesthouse (as shown below). Its nice, I have a big room and electric most of the time, including an overhead fan. the one bad thing was the lack of cooking facilities. Ghanian street food is both tasty and cheap but it is ALL very heavy and full of oil. So first thing I did the next day is go and buy some cooking equipment in the market.
I visisted the Zoo that afternoon, and was not suprised to see little change. The baby elephant has grown a lot since I was here in 2013. she still gets walked around this city zoo! Scary! Unfortunatly the lions died, so the only large carnivore left is a hyena (who I am yet to see as she has a large vegetated enclosure since the lions died).
The saddest change however, was the young male chimpanzee who was the face of my gofundme campaign, Jacky (pictured below). He was a sweet four-year-old when I was here in 2013. I spent hours tickling him and making him laugh, and pretending to chimp laugh as he attempted to tickle me back. He was a gorgeous healthy looking boy with bright eyes. Unfortunately, he died at some point in the last four years. Chimpanzees, unlike Gorillas or Monkeys are extremely resistant and rarely die young in captivity. I was told it is believed to be because of parasites. Although this news hit me hard- knowing his short life was spent alone in a small cage rocking back and forth, clutching a ball for comfort- I need to focus on the future for the other chimps, the future Jacky should have been a part of.
Because of this sad news, my first priority is trying to get de-wormers in all the six remaining chimps as soon as possible. A couple of the chimps are looking thin, this could be why. I have to say that other than this, they all look remarkably healthy. Their diet is very limited yet the condition of their hair is great. Of course, because of the limited of space they lack muscle mass, but nothing that cant be worked on.
So after observing the chimpanzee behaviours for a couple of days I settled on my ethogram design. An ethogram is a list of all the behaviours being studied. I loaded them all on to my IPad data collection programme, and set off to start my study….
Its not easy watching chimpanzees eat poo, pluck out their own hair, rock back and forth and just sit doing nothing for what seems like forever. I dont think I processed how difficult this innitial 100 hours of assesment will be. Although as my field note shows I considered just packing in this method, I think I should continue. It is important that I understand the place, the people, the problems and the chimpanzees rather than storming in and trying to change everything. I don’t believe the people working at the zoo or the ministry of forestry want any animal to suffer.
My day was cut short by a 2pm-5pm storm. I knew it was rainy season but that doesnt mean it rains everyday or will affect my study right?….
google weather in Kumasi for the next week. 😮
So now I am going to have to plan each day around when it is going to rain. I may set up a GoPro, and record the behaviour retrospectively. This would make the data more accurate, although I am pretty sure the chimps will just be huddling to keep warm during a storm.