Of course the first fecal sample was collected from my favourite individual – the juvenile female, Chou Chou. She very obligingly climbed a tree next to us and had a poop the first morning I decided to start collecting. Thank you very much! The second was from Bude. As befits her name (loosely translated to “tired”), she is often at the back of the group, and her new infant is probably contributing to her lack of speed. The ideal time to collect samples, however, is first thing in the morning. Bonobos build new nests every evening to sleep in, and we leave our village at about 4:00 a.m. in order to arrive at the nests before the bonobos rise for the day. Much like humans, emptying the bowels is often the first order of business for the day, and so the challenge is to figure out which individual is which in the early morning light. Clearly, it will take some time before we have samples from all of the individuals!
A recent highlight for me was that I had a visitor (picture below)! I have always said that no matter where you go, you will find Canadians. Well, that is true even here in the Equateur Province of the Congo, which is literally, the middle of nowhere. About 45 km from Kokolopori is another bonobo research site called Wamba (link here). Kirsty Graham is working on her PhD at Wamba, a fellow Canadian and student at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland (link here), and she wanted to come and meet me and the Kokolopori bonobos. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to have a visitor! I had my mud-brick house all spruced up, and bought a fresh bottle of Agene (Lingala for “really strong alcohol made from manioc”). Actually, I hadn’t been able to drink it much myself – rather hard to get past the nose, given the smell of the stuff. However, one of the women who works for me offered to make me some pineapple juice one day, and well…I had an idea! So, after a perfect morning in the forest with the Ekalakala community and no rain, Kirsty and I enjoyed an evening of Agene and pineapple juice while watching the sun set over the village of Yetee. And a new drink was born; the Yetee Sunset! Unfortunately, she was only able to stay for a couple of days, and is back at Wamba collecting data on gestural communication among bonobos. Should be a very interesting dissertation!