On Tanzania 2012

Rainstorm in the Serengeti

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Making a Getaway

Friday, November 9th, 2012

To leave Gombe requires planes, boats, and automobiles (the train is highly unreliable).  The boat was splendid, the automobile large and dependable, and the plane, well, the plane was interesting.  See, they are rebuilding the runway in Kigoma, complete with paving, but while they fix it, the bigger planes can’t land, so those of us […]

Christmas in October!

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Jessica and I had fake Christmas last Sunday.  We drank hot cocoa and built a Christmas tree out of a branch decorated with a paperclip and a Dum-Dum wrapper.  We exchanged gifts. Jessica got Superman cologne, World Cup tattoo gum, Arabic orange soda, a Grow-A-Lizard, and mini liquor bottles. I got Obama gum, weed socks, […]

Little Andrea: Part Two

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

My little namesake has started to transition from being a black infant to something a bit more curious.

The Things They Ate

Friday, October 26th, 2012

Everyone assumes we eat beans and rice every day.  When they picture a field scientist, they picture tents and pit toilets and beans and rice.  Well, here at Gombe we don’t live in tents, our toilets, though still holes in the ground, feature fashionable wooden seats, and we would give our left arm to have […]

Attack of the Killer Bush Pig

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

It took me a minute, maybe two, to figure out what was going on.  Sassandra, my target, had just dumped a lovely pile of poo and I was readying myself to claim it as soon as she descended the throne.  Beside me Hamimu stared off into the twist of vines and said, “Bush pig,” pointing.  […]

Rainy Season Returns

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Rainy season has returned.  Even without the dark, cloud-smothered skies, even if we never felt a drop of rain, we would still know it is rainy season.  “Why?” you may ask.  Because rainy season has symptoms other than rain.  For example, the Congo, which disappeared sometime back in May has promptly reappeared, reminding us, yet […]


Friday, October 12th, 2012

Jessica and I collect poop.  Before you become worried that our hobbies have become a bit untoward since setting up camp in the bush, let me assure you that it’s all for science.  See, poop, in addition to smelling bad, is full of all sorts of fun things that you’ve probably never thought about.  Some […]


Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

1) Often there comes a time of day when the teenage hooligans pop by to taunt me through the window.  Most of the show involves them seeing themselves reflected in the glass of the cabinet opposite the window and henceforth engaging in all manner of threat displays to those unknown baboons that are clearly inside […]

The Wedding

Monday, October 8th, 2012

They said the wedding reception would kick off around 7:30 PM.  Jessica and I thought we’d go for a few hours, maybe push our bedtime to a late 11:00 PM.  We got home at two this morning.  Anyone who’s been to Africa knows that things run on a different time frame, a sort of a […]

The Bush Pig Has Passeth

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Hamimu and I found the complete skeleton of a dead bush pig in the forest the other day.  So I put the head together and snapped a few photos.  Then we bludgeoned it with rocks to extract the teeth.  We were bored.

Achalle Came A’ Calling

Friday, September 28th, 2012

This is Achalle.  You don’t know him yet.  He lives in DC.  He came to visit me the other day and took a nap on my front porch. When I said hello to him through the window, he greeted me with this yawn.  It felt a bit unfriendly.

The War

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

When the war came, I was already very sweaty.  I’d hands-and-knees-ed my way up the southern slopes of Kasekela valley, my hair torn out, my arm cut, my mood bordering on foul.  But then we reached a path and Uvila and her beaux took a breather on the hillside and I wiped the sweat from […]

Little Andrea

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Just A Quiet Little Family Time

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Wardrobe Malfunction

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Only when I arrived home hours later did the extent of my forest wardrobe malfunction become apparent.  No doubt my field assistant enjoyed the show.

Life in DC

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

I’ve mentioned DC before.  They are the large group of urban baboons that hang out in camp, pilfering and fighting and generally causing a ruckus.  Well, recently I have started following this group and, let me tell you, theirs are a far sight from the innocent shenanigans of BA and AC.  See, life in DC […]

Kids on a Boat

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

What I Know About Swahili

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

Swahili is a funny language.  Sometimes there’s a word to say exactly what you mean when it would take three in English.  For example, the word pole (pronounced “POL-eh) is used to express empathy to someone for something that happened that is not great.  Your mother-in-law just died? Pole. You stubbed your toe? Pole.  You […]


Friday, August 31st, 2012

Amadu is not our most attractive baboon.  But he’s got heart!

Fifty Shades of Olive

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Yes.  I read it.  The book.  That book.  Am I proud?  “Holy &^%$**$#@*%^$ NO!” does not even begin to describe the depths of my embarrassment.  But, after reading a terribly written, shallow, butt-plug-ridden fantasy about a sadist and his lady-love, I have begun to notice some interesting parallels to the baboon world (and, regrettably, Twilight).  […]

Bathroom Buddy

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Walked out of the choo the other day (Swahili word for “toilet”) and found this guy hanging out on the edge of our trash pit.  Apparently, his name is Freud.  What would old Sigmund say about this handsome doppelganger?

My, What Big TEETH You Have…

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Where’s The Baboon?

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Following baboons can be riveting work.  Sometimes.  Other times I follow a baboon and she comes to camp and decides to take a lengthy nap in an obscure place and I get to play the fun game of Where’s the Baboon?, like I’m six years old watching PBS.  So, now it’s your turn.  Where’s the baboon? […]

Movie Night

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Saturday night is movie night.  There’s no earthly reason why it needs to be Saturday night, but I usually have Sunday off and it gives me something to look forward to.  Well, this Saturday we decided to watch a movie with Ashura, our wonderful cook.  Doing so, though, requires picking something that is extremely plot-driven […]

A Forest Friend

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

I Am a Naked Emperor

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Wegea is trying to get me killed.  She flops around in her cute little tiny kid way, playing and gnawing on whatever strikes her fancy, with nary a thought for the collateral damage.  And how is it that a small child could take me out, you may ask?  Three words: Winimili the $%*#.  For those […]

Flies Do It Too

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Chillin’ with Jane

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

So Jane Goodall and I were sitting on the beach having a whisky and discussing Tanzanian hip-hop when…well, that’s it.  That’s what we did.  I don’t really suppose my story needs much more than that (though I will continue nonetheless).  After many a meeting in which I was mostly ignored, I finally found myself sitting […]

Another Mid-day Nap

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Bush Pigs in the Bush

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

I have seen bush pigs before, but they are always running away, so I’ve never gotten a proper sense of just what it is that they are.  Then, a couple days ago while searching for baboons, I saw a fuzzy sort of thing in a jungly bit of forest and crept closer to see if […]

For It Must Be a Might Fine Town-o

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

(Name that song?)   On occasion we go to town.  This occasion happened to be that Jessica, the other baboon researcher, was going home for a month and I thought I might escort her so we could have a rockin’ night out in the bright night lights of Kigoma.  There was no park boat going […]

A Little Nappy-poo

Monday, July 16th, 2012


Saturday, July 14th, 2012

Gimli is a cheeky little punk.  Rather small, he trails after his mother, Gremlin, a decrepit old chimp, chronically bored.  To pass the time, then, he has had to create his own fun and his own fun mostly entails harassing baboons.  My baboons.  On several occasions Gimli has chased my target female off into a […]

Yei’s Sad End

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Unfortunately, all of you who have diligently studied the recent baboon family trees I published will need to make some alterations.  Yei, a rather nice older baboon, and her little 5-month daughter, Yoani, have died.  It’s not entirely clear what happened to Yei, but I noticed one day that she was very sick, walking with […]

Robbed Blind By One-eyed Jill

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

A thief stole into our house in broad daylight.  I was in my bedroom, looking for some data sheets and didn’t hear the door open, or maybe I did and thought it was Ashura (the woman who cooks for us).  But when I emerged from my bedroom, deep in scientific thought, I caught the scoundrel […]


Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Not A Baboon

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Unfortunately, my first thought upon seeing the baboon with a shaved head was not, “Get the camera!”  Though that certainly would have been rational (and nice for this blog).  No, instead my first thought—perhaps equally valid—was that he had escaped from a medical facility where they conducted lobotomies on habituated baboons and he was now […]

Baboon Family Trees

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

There have been requests for a family tree of sorts so I’ve put this together to tide the hungry over.   Perhaps it will make itself into it’s own page or sit along the side of future entries or include fancy color photographs.  But for now this is a breakdown of the families so y’all […]

Ocean Tanganyika

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Our lake turned into an ocean the other day.  I took these pictures after the waves started to subside a little, but let’s just say they were huge.  All the boats that normal float moored to the beach were broken and when Lisa and I went for our bath, we almost drowned (and were swept […]

How to Find the Love of Your Life

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Siria has worked out the best way to get a girlfriend.  First, stalk her.  Then she cannot realistically doubt your interest.  Second, harass her current boyfriend, especially during those special intimate moments.  Third, never give up.  Ever.  And, yet, though I applaud his efforts—and his whimsical style—Siria has not met with as much success as […]

You should not laugh at someone else’s expense.  My mother taught me this, I’m sure.  But, just the same, when Uele climbed on Urusi’s back and was riding her like she was a bucking bronco—while, incidentally, trying to chew on her neck—I couldn’t help but giggle.  Urusi, freshly pregnant, a real woman now, putting on […]

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

Everyday Primate Heroes

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

There are heroes among us.  And quite contrary to everyone’s expectations they are teenagers.  In a single day two juveniles in separate groups separated themselves from the chaff and rescued a baby from a burning building.  In a manner of speaking.  First there was little Wegea getting rocked by Weigira.  Wegea is the poorly tended […]


Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Yambera has decided she doesn’t really like me.  Luckily she weighs about 10 pounds, soaking wet.  Last year she was one of the cheeky little girls who would grab my pants and then look at me with a face that said, “What?  You want to do something about it?”  It was cute.  But now she’s […]

Doin’ Research!

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Ubergiji’s Clan

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Ubergiji’s family is weird.  I like to think of them as socially progressive, but that might be a little generous.  See, in baboon society there are hierarchies and they are pretty straightforward.  For dudes, the toughest or the slyest is the top dog, and only for a while.  For females, though, it’s like the British […]


Sunday, June 17th, 2012

These were up my pants the other day.  Lots of them.  All the way up.  Ouch.

“Just the back, please, Ma.”

Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Whitlow (WTW) is a crappy girlfriend.  Perhaps she’s just a little too no-nonsense, a little too take-charge, but she’s also a bit of a cold fish.  As I followed various baboons yesterday, I happened upon WTW and her current beaux, Sima.  They seemed content enough, Sima grunting after her if ever she seemed to be […]

Baboon Repose

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Some aspects of field life are endearing and awesome.  Baby chimps swinging in a tree.  Little Shamila who waves hello at me and yells, “Ahn-DRAY-uh!”  A calm lake and a cool swim after a long day.  French fry night.  But other aspects are not so endearing, not so awesome.  Sticks in my eyes.  Ants.  Four-hour […]

Fun With Animals

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Today we had a lot of fun with animals.  And by animals I, of course, don’t mean baboons.  I mean other animals.  To start off the morning, Hamimu (my intrepid young assistant) and I play the fun game where I ask him what he would rather be attacked by.  We start with siafu vs. sungusungu […]

Family Resemblances

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Baboon daughters look a lot like their mothers.  For some the resemblance is so uncanny, on first glance I sometimes mix them up.  Yanani looks a lot like her mother, Yei.  Uvila and Ubergiji look a lot like their mother, Ubena.  Ubergiji’s daughters, Unarasika and USA look a lot like her.  And it’s not rocket […]

Searching for AC Troop yesterday was one of those epic 3.5 hour slogs up and down mountains where we find every baboon group imaginable except the one for which we are searching.  Makes one a titch grumpy.  We even saw a chimp or two in our quest, which is supposed to be all kinds of […]

Home Sweet Gombe

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

I bet you’ve been wondering about our digs here in the jungle.  I know you picture safari tents, perhaps lanterns lighting our nightly cocktail as we look out over the lake (or perhaps you actually picture the Serengeti, lions roaring in the distance).  Or perhaps you see a thatched hut surrounded by jungle, monkeys swinging […]

Back in the Field!

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

I’ve been wondering if there’s a Swahili word for “plumber’s crack”.  Fortuitously, I know the words for “caterpillar”, “so-and-so”, and the equivalent of our “number 1” and “number 2”.  But I don’t know “plumber’s crack”.  Which is too bad because my pants have been getting soaked with rain, clinging to my legs, and then, with […]

After various planes, trains, and automobiles (if trains are boats, that is), I’ve made it to Gombe and western Tanzania has chosen to greet me a thunderclap and a general sogginess.  I came in May partially because the rainy season tends to pack its bags at the end of April, but instead it is lazily […]

A New Field Season Coming Soon!

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012