Conservation & environment

Our Master meets a Legend!

29 February 2016

<p>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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>Jane&#39;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! &nbsp;</p>

<p>Our own habituated group of chimps in Mahale is also part of long standing research from Kyoto University who celebrated it&#39;s 50th year of continuous research last year.</p>

<p>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.</p>

<p>Their passion and knowledge of the chimps and their environment is inspiring and infectious!&nbsp; 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.</p>

<p>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&hellip;.</p>

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<p><strong>How long have you been a guide and what inspired you to become one?</strong></p>

<p>My Father who lives in our local village, Katumbi, worked as an assistant with the Japanese researchers from the very beginning until 2012.&nbsp; So from at least age 5 I used to see the chimps around the research camp.&nbsp; My first memory of seeing the chimps was back when they were still habituating them using sugar cane and bananas.&nbsp; 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!&nbsp; 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.</p>

<p>After listening to all the stories my Father used to tell about the chimpanzees I wanted to study sciences and work with wildlife.&nbsp; But my Father had other ideas and wanted me to go to the government school.&nbsp; After high school, in 2008 I got a job as a Guide for Mahale National Park.&nbsp; 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.&nbsp; 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.</p>

<p>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.&nbsp; 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. &nbsp;</p>

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<p>Butati&#39;s passion for the chimps and the environment shines through in his storytelling</p>

<p><strong>What makes the Mahale Mountains so special?</strong></p>

<p>The location is incredible, crystal clear water and the beauty of the environment.&nbsp; 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.&nbsp; Also the variety of plants and butterflies.&nbsp; It&#39;s very hard to leave Mahale, when I am away from the mountains I always miss it and want to come back!</p>

<p><strong>Who is your favourite chimp in the M group?</strong></p>

<p>I have 3!! smile</p>

<p>Alofu (age 33) for his amazing personality, as human beings we can learn from him about democracy.&nbsp; He peacefully stepped down to allow his Alfa status to be taken.&nbsp; He&#39;s gentle and not violent in any way.&nbsp; He takes great care of his Mother Wakusi, because of this she is the oldest female in the community at 54 years of age.&nbsp; He&#39;s a real gentleman - we can all learn from him.</p>

<p>Michio (age 19) He&#39;s more or less like a replica of Alofu!&nbsp; He spends a lot of time with Alofu and learns from him.&nbsp; I consider him to be the next Alpha as he is strong but gentle towards his fellow chimps.</p>

<p>And the unnamed baby who is the son of Cynthia - he is the cutest baby!&nbsp; He&#39;s got a bright pink face which I think will make him the most handsome chimp out of all of them!&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>

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<p>Alofu - Number 2 ranking male - the gentleman of the group!</p>

<p><strong>For someone who hasn&#39;t seen chimps in the wild can you describe the experience of seeing them for the first time?</strong></p>

<p>It&#39;s a very different experience each time you see them.&nbsp; Every time something different is happening.&nbsp; 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!&nbsp; Depending on what they are doing your opinion will change.&nbsp; 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!&nbsp; Either way you will come away exhilarated at being so close to our closest living relatives and seeing how similar we actually are.</p>

<p><strong>So, what was it like meeting Jane Goodall?</strong></p>

<p>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!&nbsp; 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.</p>

<p>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.</p>

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<p><strong>What did you ask her and what was her response?</strong></p>

<p>&nbsp;I believe that the current challenge we have with conservation is the uncontrolled population growth in communities living adjacent to protected areas.&nbsp; People in those communities would like to have as many children as possible just because they can.&nbsp; 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.&nbsp; It&#39;s also a way of continuing the family name.</p>

<p>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,&nbsp; encroaching on the National Parks and protected areas.</p>

<p>I asked Jane:&nbsp; 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?</p>

<p>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&#39;s the only way to save our natural resources.&nbsp; Even my Father had 13 children and I do not wish to follow him!&nbsp; I have twins and that&#39;s enough!</p>

<p>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.&nbsp; She said she sees it&#39;s not a good thing here and will continue to raise it in her talks and school visits.</p>

<p>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&#39;t know about, for example the migrating butterflies from Kenya to Moshi in Tanzania and various otter examples. &nbsp;</p>

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<p>She is such an inspiration and I was truly lucky to have the chance to meet with her.</p>

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