Inoko and the Camera Trap Thief

“There’s a new species of monkey at Bafundo” (Henri Silegowa)
“I doubt it!” (John Hart)
“Show me the photos. Where is the skin?” (still John)
“The hunter refused to give up the skin, but,” Henri explained, “There are photos, still in the camera at Bafundo.”

Inoko female_hunter kill
One of the photos on the Bafundo camera. It was a female.

The next morning John and Henri left Kindu for Bafundo camp and that same evening John agreed it was indeed something new. Our second mystery primate.

known occurence of Inoko copy
We can not yet describe it’s distribution beyond a couple of points on a map.

A few hunters gave it the name Inoko, but many local hunters did not recognize the monkey. Is that because it is so rare? or too small for bushmeat? or is this a recent range-extension, or a hybrid???

A month later we had another hunter’s kill and this time a skin.

2nd Inoko_male
The second Inoko was male.

The taxonomic plot was thickening.

But we needed more information about habitat, range and diet. The animal is secretive – very secretive. So we put up camera traps.

We sent 5 camera traps to Bafundo. Old ones and unfortunately three did not work. The two in the field did indeed catch a few animals, but no Inoko.

See bottom right hand corner.

The forest where the hunters found Inoko, was near the villages. It was beautiful forest, but hunted-out. No big mammals were left. Inoko is a diminutive monkey. Still, animals that are much smaller are often caught on cameras. So why no Inoko ? We waited.

Then one of the cameras disappeared.

If I had known, I would have been furious. But Assani, the head of camp TL2, along with Silas, JP and Serge took the information straight to the village chiefs. Within 8 km of our camp there are three villages, Likanjo, Bafundo and Bote. The chiefs responded.

Chiefs from the 3 villages
The three chiefs from villages near our Bafundo camp: Likanjo, Bafundo and Bote.

They wrote a letter and signed not as individuals but with the symbol of custom. The camera had to be returned within two days or traditional punishment would be meted out.

letter with customary "signature"
A letter with customary signature is not taken lightly locally.

There was a suspicion. A traveling salesman told Assani that a certain Bakoto, had tried to trade some sort of camera for a cloth. Was it perhaps the lost camera trap? But no proof.

The traveling salesmen
Traveling salesmen sitting in front of their wares in Likanjo.

The second morning after the chiefs’ letter was distributed, at 6AM, Assani, our camp leader, was called to the house of the chief of Bafundo. The camera had been deposited at his door during the night with, unbeknownst to the thief, recorded evidence of his identity.

Caught in the act.

The story could end here, but the chiefs were not content. They wrote a letter to Bakoto warning him that he had to present himself. He was known.

Bakoto fled. He stayed in the forest. A few days ago, when he was fishing, his hook (a large #6) flipped back and caught him between the ribs. He is at the Lokando hospital. Traditional justice was done. Bakoto will continue to feel pursued. There is no doubt. He has no choice.

Trying to increase the camera traps looking for Inoko, Guylain, our motorcycle driver-mechanic, started taking apart the dysfunctional ones.
fixing camera traps at Bafundo
Guylain with Manaka, our second driver, as assistant.

camera traps dismantled _checked with motorcycle battery

By cleaning off rust and repairing a broken wire, he managed to recover two more for the forest.

Painting for Apes

Cleve Hicks, who led our 2012-2103 survey to Bili, has submitted these two watercolor paintings he made of chimpanzees from Northern DR Congo to the Endangered: Art for Apes contest. Check their on-line gallery.

Chimp by Cleve Hicks
African Ape in the Sunset

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Artist in Residence along the Lomami

Roger Peet at Obenge

Roger Peet (author of this post) sampling Ebambu fruit on his 2012 trip to the Lomami.

I’ve made two trips to the TL2 region, the first in 2012 and the second earlier this year. Each time I’ve been overwhelmed by the richness and diversity of the country, the generosity and depth of the people, and by the strange new world of culture and nature that I experienced. As a visual artist I’ve tried to make images that evoke some of these experiences.

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ITURI STORY. Anarchy in the Year 2000 — Part 10

motorcycle on forest road
The front motorcycle enters the forest after the village of Komanda

We were impressive: A whole cavalcade of motorcycles. Or perhaps not so impressive.   On the back roads of the United States, where we just came from, we would be ridiculous. The motorcycles were little Yamaha 100s, tough machines, but not the American bull-machines that roar through upstate summers. Each of our motorcycles was stacked high with baggage and supplies, and each motorcycle carried two people: driver and passenger, sandwiched together. For Rebekah and particularly Jojo this was a big event: Back to Epulu, and John joining us in a week and a half. But it was the uncertainty of the times that put an edge on everything. This was my third trip to Epulu this year, all on motorcycle; the vehicles had been the first things looted back in 1996 and it still wasn’t safe to replace them. Only two of these motorcycles were ours, the other two rented in Bunia.

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