Guinea chimpanzees - one of the moments of my life!

  • nkgray
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8 years 3 months ago #12203 by nkgray
nkgray created the topic: Guinea chimpanzees - one of the moments of my life!
I discovered a few days ago that there is a forest reserve close to our camp here, which has been the subject of chimpanzee monitoring and behavioural studies by Kyoto University in Japan for the past 36 years - and visitors are welcome. Having a break in the work schedule we headed off to Bossou at 8am this morning, a 55km - 65 minute drive (ended up at a point 6km from Liberia and 8km from Ivory Coast). The weather was the worst I have experienced yet here in the early morning, pouring rain. We decided to go anyway as it changes so quickly here as well. As we got closer it brightened, usually meaning cloudy with the odd shower, not pouring down. As we arrived at Bossou it stopped raining, but just as we had signed in and been assigned a guide it started raining again. We were told that one of the Japanese students was already in the forest and watching a group of 3 chimps, no more than 1.5km from the office. So we decided to brave the elements and head off anyway.

Below is what we headed into, taken after we got back to the office and the rain had abated yet again. The sun came out 5 minutes into our return trip to the camp!



Next is me, wearing my poncho - with camera bag underneath (I wasn't going to be without it today), and a surgical mask that all humans making contact with the chimps must wear to reduce the chance of passing on human infections. In the photo with me is our soldier Haba looking at one of the chimps with my binoculars. You can also get a feel for what the inside of a tropical rain forest looks like.



Our first contact was with a group of 2 adults and one juvenile (next pic - these were the ones that the student was watching), the latter no more than 7m away but as you can see taking photos was not easy. I had to battle an eyepiece steaming up every time I lifted the camera to my eye, so had to put camera on manual and take bracket shots around the point at which the camera reckoned it was in focus (and flashed red at me, which I could pick up through the mist) - just hoping that one of them would come out. The chimps moved off quickly and soon disappeared. The guide led us to a spot that he said was often frequented and told us to sit and wait. After an hour sitting on large green leaves on the mouldering leaf litter of the forest floor with our clothes literally steaming, the trees dripping very large drops all around us and ants starting to inspect my boots I was beginning to wonder what we doing there!



Then it happened! We became aware of 2 adults in the treetops above us, one keeping very much out of sight most of the time. The other was was a little more accommodating. After getting lots of shots of arms waving around (next pic) I finally got a head shot (next) of an adult female. Then she started to move and we realised she had a young one with her (next 2 shots). As mother started building a nest by pulling together large branches and intertwining them (bottom left in next pic) junior (guide reckoned 30 months) started enjoying himself.











All the shots so far were with 85mm lens and are all big crops of the original image. So I decided to heck with the rain I was going to put on the 400m lens, and the final shot - I knew instantly as I looked through the viewfinder which decided not to steam up this time - is probably one of the most exhilarating moments of my life.



Neil

P.S For more info on Bossou go to http://www.pri.kyoto-u.ac.jp/chimp/Bossou/Bossou.html

P.P.S. .....and it wasn't a dead loss birding-wise. I added another lifer in Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher :D .

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  • gordon
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8 years 3 months ago #12204 by gordon
gordon replied the topic: Re: Guinea chimpanzees - one of the moments of my life!
Neil, these have to be amongst THE BEST pics ever posted on Simply Birding!!!

Thanks for sharing such an awesome moment with us mere mortals!!! <!-- s:yes: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/yes.gif" alt=":yes:" title="Yes" /><!-- s:yes: -->

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  • Dewi Edwards
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8 years 3 months ago #12205 by Dewi Edwards
Dewi Edwards replied the topic: Re: Guinea chimpanzees - one of the moments of my life!
WOW! Not only great photos, but the write up was superb as well. I can sense your tension and excitement from it. A magical day for you there Neil.

Cheers,

Dewi.

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8 years 3 months ago #12219 by nkgray
nkgray replied the topic: Re: Guinea chimpanzees - one of the moments of my life!
Gordon/Dewi,

Thanks. It really was an almost surreal moment. I remember watching film of Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees at Gombe in Tanzania "before the Ark" when I was still at university. I have followed her work over at least three decades and always thought to myself, just as well I can watch these videos as its the closest I'll ever get to chimps in the wild. So when the opportunity arose I grabbed it, though one is by no means guaranteed of seeing them at Bossou. I think the atrocious weather, the denseness of the forest (the guide actually went ahead snipping away vines and creepers in our path, not with a machete but a good sturdy pair of pruning shears!), the slipping and sliding on the leaf mulch and mud that had me on my face or backside more times than I care to remember, and that long period remaining still in that steamy jungle just waiting for something to happen, all made that moment when I saw the young chimp through the 400mm lens so much more satisfying. To have gone through all that made the experience! It took literally a good half hour for the adrenalin to stop flowing and the reality to finally register - I have just photographed a chimpanzee in the wild in a tropical rainforest.

Neil

P.S. I have just completed the mammoth road trip from N'Zerekore to Conakry, driving along on the Guinea side of first the Liberian then the Sierra Leone border. It took 10h50 to do the 633km to Mamou, our overnight stop, and another 5h30 this morning to do the remaining 275km. The scenery is awesome - I just hope that next time I do it there is not so much rain. The road in many places reminds me of the Long Tom pass and other roads winding through the Mpumalanga escarpment, except that it is tropical rainforest. Near Coyah, the last big town on the way to Conakry is a sandstone escarpment over which was cascading, not1, not 2, but 12 waterfalls of the scale of the Graskop area's Lisbon, Berlin or MacMac falls!

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7 years 6 months ago #23428 by nkgray
nkgray replied the topic: Re: Guinea chimpanzees - one of the moments of my life!
Well, 9 months on I went to Bossou again, this time on a gloriously sunny but horrendously humid day that still gave me lots of problems with a steamed up camera viewfinder.

We walked out of the admin office having paid our $10 entrance fee and round the corner onto the road into the forest. Just 20m ahead 2 chimps ran across the road, the last 2 of a larger group that had just crossed. We simply followed them into the forest. The whole trip lasted 56 minutes!!!! Not quite the adrenalin rush of the first time - no gorgeous dripping wet juvenile to see, no steaming wet jungle to slide and slither through, but the photos this time were well worth the $10!









Neil

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  • JGB
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7 years 6 months ago #23477 by JGB
JGB replied the topic: Re: Guinea chimpanzees - one of the moments of my life!
Lovely photos Neil, I can imagaine that it is an incredibly emotional experience seeing them in the wild like that.

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  • sulamk
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7 years 6 months ago #23553 by sulamk
sulamk replied the topic: Re: Guinea chimpanzees - one of the moments of my life!
Neil,
All I can say is Oh! Wow! What a magical experience!
Thank you for Sharing!

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