“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Guylain with Manaka, our second driver, as assistant.
By cleaning off rust and repairing a broken wire, he managed to recover two more for the forest.