There is a remote forest west of the Lomami and sheltered between the TuTu tributaries that is amazingly rich in wildlife.
West of the Lomami and east of the Tshuapa, block E15 has amazingly little hunting compared to adjacent blocks of 900 sq km.
The Tutu bends 90 degrees and the feeder rivers of its basin bend with it, so as Bernard’s team followed the compass line of their transect, they negotiated many difficult rivers. They found a forest rarely frequented by bushmeat hunters: too difficult to be worth it?
Crossing a Mutoto ya TuTu, or TuTu’s child, the name our porters gave all the streams and rivers of this unknown area of forest
A red colobus overhead follows the progress of Bernard’s “caravan” beneath him
Primates peered from the trees. There were bonobo nests, forest antelope, okapi and more sign of forest elephant than they had found anywhere before.
A fresh okapi print near one of the many Mutoto ya Tutu
Bonobos were feeding here. The evidence is the ripped and stripped Marantaceae fronds.
But what made this circuit memorable were the ivory tusks found lying in the mud on the 8th day of the circuit (4 days from the return to Obenge). They had been there a long time, mottled orange like the earth itself and no bones were in sight.
The porters gather round one of the tusks where it lay along their path.
Perhaps an elephant, wounded or just old, came to this secluded area to die. It is not often that ivory is found — anywhere in the wild. Usually elephants are killed, their ivory hacked out, their flesh stripped, and the bones left to molder.
This is the more usual scene of elephant remains found along a transect. There was an elephant slaughter here, more than a year ago, and the ivory was carried away by the poachers leaving the bones to slowly decay.
This time ivory was found after the bones were completely gone. Old ivory, but heavy. One tusk was 19 kg (42lbs) and the other 19.5 kg (43lbs). Can you imagine carrying that around like your teeth, day after day !!
This photo by Reto taken of an elephant family in a baie in the Ituri Forest. [email protected]
I first wrote about this after the tusks were brought out, Ashley and John told me about presenting the tusks in Obenge, and then in Opala and finally in Kisangani. But now I have had a chance to sit down with Bernard, go through his photos and his account of carrying the ivory back. They were even bigger than I had been told before!
The porter Kasidi resting against the two tusks.
At particularly dense areas the porters skirted to one side to avoid crawling through the worst liana tangles with their loads. This was such a place. Bonne Année who was in the lead spotted the first tusk and Kasidi the second. They all gathered to consider the best move. Should they bury them? Throw them in the river? Take them back? Ivory could be big trouble…
At the site of the find. Bonne Année is on the left.
And so I add the photos below to the previous post about the ivory’s fate. I do so with a special appreciation for the forest and a special awe for its ivory seeking history: The slave caravans of Ngongo Luteta lugging loads of ivory to Zanzibar and, later, the ivory barges of the Belgians shipping more loads of ivory, now in the other direction to the Atlantic. And with a renewed commitment to help assure that elephant will have a place in the basins of the TL2 (Tshuapa-Lomami-Lualaba) carrying their own ivory for many years to come.
Carrying the ivory out.
Crossing a stream, now with the ivory.
Helping each other with the ivory across a bigger river.