Fun With Animals

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 (two types of ants…I wrote a delightful post on the playing of this game last year, so feel free to refer there for a thorough explanation).  Hamimu chooses siafu.  Soon I escalate to things like:

Me: Leopard or hippo?

Hamimu: Leopard.  A hippo will break you completely.

Me: Who do you think would win in a fight between a hippo and a lion?

Hamimu: The hippo.  It can just run into the water.

Me: How about on dry land.

Hamimu: The hippo.

Me: Would you rather be bitten by a lion or mamba.

Hamimu: You can get medicine for snake bites.

Me: No medicine.

Hamimu: Well, you’d just die no matter what then.


True, Hamimu, true.  He’s very practical.


Later Hamimu rescues me from a dead monitor lizard.  I am following WTW down the ridge path above Mkenke River (swinging my hips as I walk, no doubt) and all the sudden Hamimu starts chanting frantically, “Come back here!  Come back here!  Come back here!” (the technical Swahili translation would be “Return!  Return!  Return!”) while waving his hand in the air.  My heart jumps into my throat and I quickly return to his side.

Hamimu: (pointing) A snake! (I follow his finger to see what he’s on about)

Me: (leaning forward) I think that’s a monitor lizard.

Hamimu: Yes, but I thought it was a snake.

Me: Is it dead?

Hamimu: No.  It’s just sitting.

Me: I think it’s dead.

Hamimu: No, it’s not.  (Hamimu throws a rock at it to make his point.  The lizard just lays there)

Me: I think it doesn’t have a head.

Hamimu: No, it’s a whole lizard.  But it IS dead.


Hamimu admitted that he thought it was a mamba and I said he was just thinking about snakes because of our conversation earlier and then we continued on in silence.


A little while later, we are following Walidi and I see a giant millipede (Swahili name: jongoo) on a log by the river.  I really like these guys and so I decide to touch it with my pen.  I gently poke its backside.  It begins to roll up weirdly.  I’m not sure what my ensuing thought process was but perhaps I was just trying to right it with my pen when the whole thing just somersaults into the river and sinks.  “I’m sorry!” I tell the millipede frantically.  Hamimu hunches down and begins moving rocks to try and find the poor fellow where he’s fallen.  “Maybe he can swim?” I offer helpfully.  Hamimu can’t find the millipede.  “I didn’t mean to kill it,” I try to assure him, then, to the water, “I didn’t mean to kill you!”  A few minutes later, Walidi is still just sitting around not doing anything, so Hamimu squats again and searches for the millipede.  Somehow, miraculously, he manages to see it and dislodge it from its watery grave.  It starts to float down river.  Hamimu scampers a few feet down and fishes the thing out with a stick, rolling it onto dry ground where it writhes, no longer drowning.  Hamimu is now my hero.


Hamimu, sitting in a tree

Our final follow is with Wokora.  After dragging us through the vines a bit, Wokora climbs a tree and proceeds to eat leaves for about an hour.  While she eats various insects land on me and parade around my arms, their little suckers out as they lick up my sweat.  A chronic follower of researchers and baboons alike are sweat bees.  When bored, I like to play a game with these where I try to see if I can gently pin them to my arm before they fly away.  The bees are teeny tiny (a couple millimeters at most) and stingless.  After I pin them, I usually hold them between my fingers and then free them to the world.  They are unharmed and immediately begin circling my head again, no lesson having been learned.  Well, today I have a fanciful little fly wandering around my arm.  I see him have a little fight with another fly (also on my arm), chasing it off so he can have access to the prime sweaty bits (though I am certain that 8 hours into following baboons, every inch of me is a prime sweaty bit).  Curious about him I decide to see if I can touch him with my pen (the theme of the day, I guess) or at least scare him off.  I move it closer to him.  He ignores it.  I move the tip within millimeters of his back.  He still ignores it.  I touch his wing with the pen.  And then the cheeky little bugger actually kicks my pen away.  I touch him again.  Kick!  Kick!  Impressed, I realize that he is one tough fly and decide to let him sucker and spit all over my arm until he’s had his fill.


Updates: I wrote this post yesterday.  In the middle of last night I awoke to the loud chomping of some great beast outside my window.  There were various cracking sounds.  Naturally, I assumed this was a leopard eating some poor human and I was hearing his bones cracking in the animal’s giant maw.  I listened for several minutes before the beam of a flashlight appeared and I, of course, assumed this light was from the men hunting down the leopard.  After several breathless moments I crept to my window and discovered that the light was Kara’s and that she too had been awoken by this snuffling, chomping beast.  “Bush pig?” I said.  “Probably,” she replied.  We went back to bed.


Then, today, while following White Thorn (we call her WTO) a bat almost ran into my face.  I had to dive backwards to avoid it as it flapped by.  It was not a small bat.  “Aren’t bats nocturnal?” I asked Hamimu (actually, literally I asked, “Don’t bats sleep when there is a sun?”).  Hamimu just nodded, which doesn’t mean yes but more like, “You say stupid things and I don’t want to embarrass you so I just nod to make you stop talking.”  A little while later some reedbucks went bounding past us, their barks echoing through the valley with some pretty hefty reverb, like some thug low-riding it through his neighborhood, speakers blaring.  “Aren’t reedbucks kind of like deer?” you may be asking.  Well, yes, they are.  Only they bark.  They bark crazy loud.  Poor little Amos (an 8 month-old baboon) was scared out of his mind and kept clinging to strangers in fear.  I hoped he would cling to me, but no luck there.

A reedbuck