What's it like living at a field station in Uganda?
Here are some anecdotes about life at Makerere Biological Field Station in Uganda and studying monkeys in Kibale National Park:
A male olive baboon ran through our house and stole our peanut butter (score!). We stupidly left both doors open momentarily and he saw an opportunity. We saw another baboon in camp with a snare attached to his hand -- looks like he will probably lose the hand. Illegally set snares in the forest meant for small mammals sometimes snare chimpanzees and baboons instead. Unlike with the chimps, researchers don’t intervene when a baboon gets an appendage caught in a snare.
Today while searching for redtails in the morning and passing by a group of red colobus monkeys, an adult male chimp came up the path behind me and scared the bejesus out of me. I saw something crouched almost human-sized moving towards me out of the corner of my eye (keep in mind we almost never see the chimps though we hear them frequently) and said to the field assistant ahead of me “Oh my god.” He turned, initially terrified, thinking that I’d seen an elephant behind me. The chimp was unconcerned with us. He was considering hunting red colobus and I was in his way, so he just walked past.
"Mango flies" are flies here that lay eggs in damp clothing, leading to the larvae burrowing into human skin to develop. An effective way to avoid the mango fly experience is to iron all your clothes after line drying. My first mango fly experience wasn’t too bad. It was like a very painful pimple popping process. Redtail monkeys suffer from mango flies just like humans. One poor female in my study group has three mango flies on her body right now (big red sores on her knee, shin and thigh). Because redtails lack the smarts to pop these larvae out, they have to suffer through the maturation process of the flies that will then burst out of their skin. I wonder how much mango flies affect their health throughout the year. There are a few collared individuals in another redtail group and a local field assistant told me that when another research group darted one female to collar her, they found twelve mango flies on her and took them out for her while she was under.