Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Dja National Park, March 4, 2019

I was on cook group last night: in the dark, my torch's battery was dead, the lights in our kitchen don't work because the truck batteries are dead and we arrived at 6:20 so supper wasn't ready until after 8. Afterwards, I still had to set up my tent but that was okay because I went to bed at a normal time so had a long and restful sleep.  Today we left camp at 8:30 to go on a forest / Pygmy village walk.  Lying Planet talks about possibly seeing elephants, monkeys, lots of birds and maybe even gorillas, but all I saw was a few butterflies-

Spider webs-

Spiders-

Tree tomatoes-

Termites-

Edible mushrooms-

And an unidentifiable thing-

Roots-

We walked 22 km and it just about killed me.  Lucky it was overcast and we were well protected in the shade of the jungle-

At one point in the trail, we walked on ants and they covered our shoes and bit us like crazy.  Everyone was slapping and pinching them off.  They were terrible and hurt like hell.  Coming back, we ran through that spot and only got a few.  

We had to cross a river via ferry-

Then we stopped at a Pygmy village of the Baka tribe.  I thought they were midgets, but everyone here looked "normal".  The guide said that because of evolution and villagers marrying them, they look the same as us.  I wouldn't want to live in their village-

We got back to camp by 4 pm after a long, sweaty day and met Lucas from Beaver Mines, Alberta.  He doesn't know Dean but knows other people in Pincher whom I know.  He's working on a biology PhD from Stanford and has been here 2 years researching.  He goes back to California on Friday to write a big exam.  While here he's seen a leopard, many gorillas, 40 different species of birds, jungle buffalo, dyker, forest elephants, lots of squirrels, butterflies, primates and real Pygmies.  He does his research 30 km inside at the Biosphere.  I guess that's where we needed to go but the infrastructure doesn't exist and so it's very difficult.  Even the village where we camped had filthy, poor bathrooms - it was better to go outside.  Luckily we have our own shower tent.  UNESCO wants to desensitize Dja National Park and Lucas of course says that would be disastrous.  He's right but if no one comes it is a waste of money, especially when a man was caught with 60 pair of elephant tusks and the local Genral let him off.  People here are fighting a losing battle.  They will have to do what they did in Rwanda.  They developed a huge tourism project where tourists pay $1000 to walk in the jungle, often after an hour or two van ride, to see a family of gorillas.  They have soldiers following the families to keep them safe - poachers are shot on sight.  The soldiers keep in raidio contact with the guides so they know where to lead the tourists.  Villagers are also are given a share of the money so they realize the gorillas are worth more alive than dead,  They've seen an increase in the gorilla population, communities are richer, people are employed and everyone is happy.  I gues poaching won't truly end  until the Asians realize the innards and powders made from the animal parts really doesn't do any good!  
I'm exhausted so hope I sleep well.  

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