At the close of 2012 we had 8 camera traps in the forest. The photos from the last few months of the year are reassuring. There were some surprises — and inspiration for the New Year.
Rarely seen animals:
Despite its size, nearly as large as a bushpig, aarvarks are among the least frequently seen of TL2 large mammals. This one shows the shorter ears that are a characteristic of the form in the central basin.
Aardvarks and giant pangolin are nocturnal and rarely encountered.
The giant pangolin and the aardvark feed on termites and ants. Usually their presence is only known by their diggings into ground-dwelling termite colonies.
The black guinea fowl was not expected in the central basin. In the far south of TL2 we first discovered this fowl killed by hunters.
We have used cameras to do two different kinds of surveys: first we surveyed “edos”. These discrete sites are small clearings in the forest that are used by different animals often apparently seeking nutrients that seep from the ground. In our last series of photos we had elephants, forest buffalo, and bongo at edos.
We also use the camera traps to survey our Losekola study area where we have laid out a path grid.
These paths allow regular observations and facilitate studies.
A small pagoda termite mound seems to attract both bonobos and TL2’s new species of monkey – the lesula.
What the camera traps tell us of the abundance of bonobos and Lesulas is particularly encouraging. We have recorded lesulas at every one of the camera settings on the Losekola study area with up to 5 individuals photographed in a single event. At least one adult male can be recognized individually by its strong facial markings.
We will continue to expand the camera trap studies in 2013. Our next steps include initiating surveys of other “edo” clearings in the Tutu basin. The camera traps will be a major focus for us in 2013 with the arrival of two collaborative projects now in development, one to survey forest cats, including we hope the elusive and apparently uncommon golden cat, and a second to develop estimates of distribution and abundance of lesula in the Losekola area.
The camera trap study is led by John Hart who works with Pablo Ayali and Maurice Emetshu.