Greystoke Mahale is nestled on a white sand beach in Lake Tanganyika. Towering behind the lodge are the Mahale Mountains, home to one of the largest known populations of wild Chimpanzees left on our planet.
Tue, Jul 12, 2016
The mid-level players of the M-group here in the Mahale Mountains have been on the shuffle.
Our handsome friend, Teddy, has been on somewhat of a rampage through the middle ranks. He has been seen showing his dominance over Darwin and Michio. If he carries on with this rise he might forgo those develish good looks for a few battle scars when he goes up against the big boys.
Our 'peace-keeper' Darwin has been on a slippery slope for some time now. If he falls too far down the ranks the chances of him regaining his once held 3rd position seems unlikely for his future in the M-group.
That droopy lip of Michio is one of his tell-tale signs. Thought to be one of the 'up-and-coming' contenders, he showed off his likenss to the great Alofu when making his charging displays for up to half an hour. Illness has forced him into a weaker state that has made his recovery arduous.
The title of 'King of the Mountain' remains tightly in the grip of Primus. He recently made a trip through camp with a large group on the prowl. His authority over all in the group was clear with all submitting to his will.
Our no.2 ,Alofu, has not been seen so far this season, but that is a common trait of his. We are sure when he does make his reappearance his comfortable position in the community will remain.
Another male that has not been seen around, but considered a big contender in the eyes of a few Japanese researchers, is our friend Caesar. We hope to find him strong when he comes down off the mountain.
The villainous Orion remains in his 3rd rank, he was recently seen passing through camp on a 'honeymoon' with Effie and later threw an old stick at a guest. We wouldn't mind seeing him forced down the ranks.
A new contender on the block could very well be this little chap, at around 4 months old and the youngest in the group, who knows where he could go. The son of Sally, we hope to propose the name Socrates after the classical Greek philosopher.
Fri, Jun 17, 2016
A new season has started here and the work in the village continues.
This week we visited Katumbi to check up on the progress of our projects and hand out the generous donations from our compassionate guests.
Julie Wynne a previous guest of ours who has already supported Katumbi clinic and school with very much appreciated equipment, has also raised the funds for a delivery and examination bed for the clinic along with enough to renovate three of the school's classrooms.
Nurse Elizabeth is the primary health care practitioner here at Katumbi and has a very busy time delivering the 100's of resident's babies in some challenging conditions. She longed for some new beds to be able to cater for her many clients and was delighted that we could assist in making this a reality.
Always greeted with smiles on the shores of Katumbi Village!
The excitement of new equipment arrivals - friendly locals giving us a helping hand
Nurse Elizabeth's delivery room with the old equipment is a basic affair - so a new bed was a welcome treat
Out with the old - in with the new!
All hands on deck to help assemble the bed!
Multitasking Butati - not just a pretty face!
Two hours later and we've created a masterpiece! Nurse Elizabeth is very happy with her new donation.
On to number two - examination bed in progress...
No time for snoozing Butati!
Happy patient with her beautiful new bundle!
The school classrooms were very much in need of repair - a new floor is welcomed by all.
New plastering, paint job and fixing the holes now saves the rooms from getting soaked in the rainy season!
Quick pit stop at the local market to give our little helpers a snack! YUM!
Another excellent initiative is the ongoing project set up by another great guest - David Middleton of 'All About The Light' http://www.allaboutthelight.org/
We had another delivery of lights arrive and we have the pleasure of distributing these great inflatable solar lights to those most in need. It really is a wonderful thing to be able to literally bring light into people's lives!
This is a great project that any traveler can take part in - just pop a few in your luggage and get involved with meeting a local community in a way that deepens both your experiences.
Thanks again to all who help it really strengthens our relationships with our communities and gives joy to all those involved.
If you are interested in helping out in anyway you can please do contact the Nomad Trust at: email@example.com for more information.
Thanks from all at Greystoke and Katumbi Village!
Tue, Jun 7, 2016
One of the most recognisable male Chimps in the M-Community is Bonobo. He dons a great grey beard but this definitely does not make him a 'hipster' chimp as he has had it long before the bearded hipster look became popular.
He has had a bit of a rollercoaster ride up and down the ranks within the community, reaching his highest rank of no. 2 back in the days of Fanana's rule in 2006. Shortly after disappearing from the group for three weeks only to return in a much reduced state and never really climbing the ranks again.
He is now into his mid-thirties and doesn't seem too fazed by all the politics, quite content with what he has.
He does however have a stubborn nature and is well known for gently bumping people out of his way on the path if he comes up from behind unnoticed.
He seems to just go about his business as he wishes and not too worried about his company, although it is believed Orion, one of the other males of a higher rank, enjoys Bonobo's company.
In 2013 he broke one of his arms...a wound that for a chimp could be devastating but he managed to recover in a few months and carry on in his usual ways.
He is always a crowd pleaser when it comes to good sightings and eventful poses, always giving some interesting facial expressions and not shy of the camera one bit.
Mon, Feb 29, 2016
Some lucky residents of Tanzania were very fortunate last week to have the opportunity to meet the eminent primatologist and advocate of world peace Jane Goodall when she visited Arusha.
Jane still spends 300 days of the year travelling the globe as an ambassador for chimpanzees and highlighting the importance of conservation, the protection of their habitats and more recently caring for the human element that effects the protection of all species the world over.
Jane's original location to study the chimpanzees, that she started 55 years ago at Gombe Stream, is just 170kms North of us here in Mahale on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, which makes us neighbours in African terms!
Our own habituated group of chimps in Mahale is also part of long standing research from Kyoto University who celebrated it's 50th year of continuous research last year.
With all these great minds of scientific research surrounding us we feel very lucky to be able to learn from them especially our Nomad guides who are our very own ambassadors for the chimpanzees.
Their passion and knowledge of the chimps and their environment is inspiring and infectious! They know our group of chimps like they know their own families having spent most of their lives growing up with them and have many stories to tell that unfold each day.
Butati Nyundo is one of our lucky guides that had the pleasure of meeting Jane, here is a little more about him and the experience….
How long have you been a guide and what inspired you to become one?
My Father who lives in our local village, Katumbi, worked as an assistant with the Japanese researchers from the very beginning until 2012. So from at least age 5 I used to see the chimps around the research camp. My first memory of seeing the chimps was back when they were still habituating them using sugar cane and bananas. A lower ranking male came in to the field where they grew sugar cane and took all the sugar cane before any of the others could get any! A high ranking male then charged in and got so angry that there was none left for him so he attacked the other male, kicking him and standing on his back and head! The strength he had was the first thing that moved me.
After listening to all the stories my Father used to tell about the chimpanzees I wanted to study sciences and work with wildlife. But my Father had other ideas and wanted me to go to the government school. After high school, in 2008 I got a job as a Guide for Mahale National Park. I had no knowledge other than what I knew from my Father, I pushed myself to learn from books, asking questions from the researchers, assistants and from the guides working at Greystoke. After some time I was lucky enough to be sponsored by one of the researchers for a scholarship to Mweka Wildlife College in Kilimanjaro to study for a Diploma in Wildlife Management.
I then volunteered at the local Primary and Secondary schools teaching Biology and Geography for 5 months before joining Mahale NP again as a guide. Although I loved teaching and think this is an important part of conservation, I wanted to work with wildlife and continue my teaching of these issues through what I now do as a guide for Nomad at Greystoke.
Butati's passion for the chimps and the environment shines through in his storytelling
What makes the Mahale Mountains so special?
The location is incredible, crystal clear water and the beauty of the environment. The chimps here are very unique compared to other groups because of the differences of the ant fishing, grooming and courtships, this makes it very special. Also the variety of plants and butterflies. It's very hard to leave Mahale, when I am away from the mountains I always miss it and want to come back!
Who is your favourite chimp in the M group?
I have 3!!
Alofu (age 33) for his amazing personality, as human beings we can learn from him about democracy. He peacefully stepped down to allow his Alfa status to be taken. He's gentle and not violent in any way. He takes great care of his Mother Wakusi, because of this she is the oldest female in the community at 54 years of age. He's a real gentleman - we can all learn from him.
Michio (age 19) He's more or less like a replica of Alofu! He spends a lot of time with Alofu and learns from him. I consider him to be the next Alpha as he is strong but gentle towards his fellow chimps.
And the unnamed baby who is the son of Cynthia - he is the cutest baby! He's got a bright pink face which I think will make him the most handsome chimp out of all of them!
Alofu - Number 2 ranking male - the gentleman of the group!
For someone who hasn't seen chimps in the wild can you describe the experience of seeing them for the first time?
It's a very different experience each time you see them. Every time something different is happening. They can be peacefully grooming, caring for their babies, mating, fishing for ants, fighting over food or showing off a display of dominance which can be nerve wracking for the first time! Depending on what they are doing your opinion will change. Some guests feel like they have just stepped into a domestic dispute when that happens! Others are shocked when they witness chimps hunting red colobus monkeys as they assume chimps are cute fluffy peaceful animals! Either way you will come away exhilarated at being so close to our closest living relatives and seeing how similar we actually are.
So, what was it like meeting Jane Goodall?
It was emotionally moving for me, I was very excited it was a dream come true and found it hard to control my emotion when first meeting her! I have read a few of her books but grew up knowing she is such an inspiration to children and everyone who loves wildlife and nature.
I got to chat with her personally and found her to be very kind towards me, she was impressed that I was the only Tanzanian that asked her a question at the group dinner.
What did you ask her and what was her response?
I believe that the current challenge we have with conservation is the uncontrolled population growth in communities living adjacent to protected areas. People in those communities would like to have as many children as possible just because they can. They believe that having a small number of children increases your risk of loosing them to illness and that every child is born with their own fortune, so having as many children as you can means they can go off and find their own opportunities and the extended families in the community will take care of them. It's also a way of continuing the family name.
The medical care today has improved and now overpopulated communities are turning to natural resources for survival, clearing forests for farming, firewood, fuel and settlements, encroaching on the National Parks and protected areas.
I asked Jane: As you are very inspirational and influential have you ever tried to convince people to practice family planning in the communities living adjacent to protected areas either in your projects or personally?
I think this is the right time for a person like you and others like you to go out there and preach this as an important message, as it's the only way to save our natural resources. Even my Father had 13 children and I do not wish to follow him! I have twins and that's enough!
Jane was very happy that this question was raised by me and asked everyone in the room to praise me for asking such an important question! In her response she said she started to raise the issue of family planning but faced difficulties from the government and human rights organisations so she decided not to continue. She said she sees it's not a good thing here and will continue to raise it in her talks and school visits.
She said there are still lots of things to study not just chimps and even after her 55 years of research there is still so much more we don't know about, for example the migrating butterflies from Kenya to Moshi in Tanzania and various otter examples.
She is such an inspiration and I was truly lucky to have the chance to meet with her.
Mon, Feb 22, 2016
I am very sad to be writing a blog under these circumstances and it is with an extremely heavy heart that I have to tell all Big Bird's fans that he is no longer with us following a tragic boat accident on the morning of the 21st February.
Please read on to remember our beloved BB...
In late October of 2013 a young grey Pelican washed up on the beach here at Greystoke Mahale. He was blown off course from his flock in a big storm, alone and bewildered he definitely landed on the right beach! I am sure nobody expected what would become of him…
Taken in by the Greystoke family the previous managers Jeff and Kerrie nurtured this ugly pelican, teaching him to fly and taking him out on daily fishing trips in their kayak. Over time he blossomed into the most magnificent handsome Great White Pelican and they aptly named him "Big Bird".
And big he most certainly was, in size, in character, but most of all his big heart that made many of the lucky ones that met him fall in love with him.
Slowly but surely he gained a following and with the overnight success of his youtube video with over 5 million hits I doubt there is another Pelican out there that rivals his popularity.
Big Bird started to realise this and became a bit of a diva with it! His attention seeking behaviour often getting him in to trouble, fiercely intelligent he always knew how to test his adoptive parents and loved teasing the rest of the staff making them run circles around him! A favourite of his would be to pick up guest's sunglasses, books and hats…once he got bored of that he would dash inside the mess and hide under the dinner table in between the guests legs hoping we wouldn't see him! Not wanting to share the limelight with anyone else, if there was ever any book or picture with a chimp on it, that would promptly be picked up and thrown in the lake!
Cam and I have been very privileged to take the mantel of BB's parents for the last 16 months and believe me it's been a full time job! He very quickly bonded with Cam (usually preferring men over women - although he'd give me cuddles when no one was looking!) and they would spend their days swimming, fishing, kayaking, playing catch, and recently frisbee!
Loved by us all - BB was part of the family
He loved to help out with anything that was going on in camp!
He did NOT appreciate Jane Goodall stealing the show!
As he's grown up, like any teenager finding his (webbed) feet, he has tested our nerves on several occasions, heading off for the night and not returning until the next morning, and surviving a couple of adventures on the large passenger ferry even a few 'birdnapping' incidents where our guides have had to go on rescue missions…he certainly did like to be the centre of all here, this was his kingdom and he let everybody know it! He would chase off the resident warthogs from their sunbathing spot and had great fun sitting in the palm nut vultures nest parpping at them as they dive bombed him! He thought this was hilarious! But no matter what mischief he got himself up to in the day you could always be sure that he would turn up on the dot for afternoon tea as that meant joining all his new friends on the boat to catch dinner! He really did love to be surrounded by a new flock of exciting friends each week and entertained us all!
There has never been a dull moment with our BB around, he truly was a huge personality that has left an enormous hole here in Greystoke it is with the greatest sadness and heaviest of hearts that we have to announce this terrible news. He was taken too early but had a very loving and exciting life with us all here.
To the ones who got to know our friendly pelican you will have the greatest memories to treasure forever.
We would love to see any of your favourite photos of our wonderful friend please do share them with us and keep his memory alive.
We are having a new boat built for the new season and will christen it "Big Bird" in honour of our dearest friend.
He touched everybody’s hearts and truly was one of a kind.
We like to think he has now joined his big flock soaring high in the skies...
Forever young and never forgotten…
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