Hi! Welcome to our site! We decided to call this blog "Yum Chapatis," because we look forward to eating lots of yummy, doughy, chapatis this year :) For now, here's a yummy recipe: click here. Throughout the year we'll try to post photos and updates to yumchapatis.com. Send some love our way!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lots and Lots of Chimpanzees

February 21, 2010

I have been at Kibale Forest for almost four months now. Time is
flying. During January and February, I've been spending 4-5 days/week
(13+ hours/day) in the forest with the chimpanzees (hence my lack of
blog posts). In many ways – keeping up with this schedule feels
incredibly challenging. However, there are plenty of positives that
come from this time spent in the forest. Namely, data collection is
coming along smoothly. Data aside though, my favorite part about these
long hours is that I am becoming much more familiar with the
chimpanzees – their individual personalities and the relationships
that they have with each other. I can finally ID most of the community
members, which is a great feeling. Some days I'll unexpectedly see one
of the chimps on my walk home from the forest - usually, I'll see one
heading in the direction of a group that I just left. It's such a neat
(and bizarre) feeling to happen upon a chimpanzee that I know and
recognize – almost like seeing an old friend.

I've come to really enjoy spending time with the family units. Because
chimpanzees are extremely promiscuous, paternity is never certain (to
the chimpanzees as least) and thus males invest little in their young.
As a result, the mothers tend to travel with their kids, and they move
in and out of parties with males and other family units. Following a
mom who has several kids can be really fun, as the kids tend to play a
lot – and some of the younger chimps are really spunky. There's one
juvenile male, Tacugama, who often displays at me by swatting branches
or small trees in my direction; he also picks fights with his little
sister a lot. He's kind of a punk, but I really appreciate his
dramatic personality – he's fun to watch. Yesterday, I was following
Tacugama's family down a steep hill. His older sister laid on the
ground and rolled all the way down the hill. Tacugama followed suit.
They sprang up at the bottom of the hill and started running after
each other – playing and exchanging friendly slaps. Strangely enough –
my first thought was, "I remember rolling down hills with my sisters
when I was a kid." I love witnessing moments like this – moments in
which the chimpanzees seem so similar to humans and so charismatic.

Another great moment that sticks out in my mind is the first time I
met Umbrella, an adult female. Umbrella has a young (very stubborn)
6-year old son and a brand new baby. Baby chimps are too uncoordinated
to walk; thus, an infant will generally hang off of his/her mom's
belly while the mom travels. Eventually, an infant will start riding
"jockey-style" on the mom's back when moving from one location to
another. The mother will usually wean juveniles at age four – and
force the kids to start walking independently (once they are
coordinated enough to do so). Anyway – the first time I met Umbrella,
she had a tiny one-month old baby wrapped around her belly, and she
was trying to summon her 6-year old son to join her so that they could
move together to a feeding tree. Her son however, was throwing a fit.
He apparently didn't want to leave the large group they were in – so
he was running around whimpering and screaming. Finally, Umbrella bent
down, ushered her 6-year old onto to back, and walked off – with a
baby on her belly and a juvenile on her back. Umbrella won a great
deal of respect from me that day. She's proven to be a very patient
mother many times since then as well.

There has been a good deal of drama in the forest during these past
two months. Soon after I arrived, the old alpha male chimpanzee (of
ten years!) was overthrown by a new alpha. Amazingly - it was a fairly
peaceful change of power, and the old alpha male has been pant
grunting to and grooming the new alpha (clear signs of subordinance).
With all of the social excitement (and some newly emerged fruiting
trees) – the chimpanzee parties have been HUGE lately. When I first
arrived, I was following very small groups of 1-4 individuals at a
time. These past two months though, the party sizes have more
typically been 12+ individuals…sometimes with as many as 30
chimpanzees traveling together.

The new alpha has led the chimp community on several patrolling
missions to go and survey the edges of their home range. It's pretty
cool to watch these – because the males (and some of the more daring
females) literally walk in single-file lines through the forest, all
the while keeping very, very quiet in an effort to hear if other
'stranger' chimpanzee communities are invading their territory (this
is shown in one of the photo above where a large group of chimps are
all facing the same direction listening for chimpanzees from other
communities). Last week, our community happened upon another
community and chaos broke out....absolute chaos. Unfortunately we were
in a horrible swamp with tall plants, ants, and elephant footprints
(which you'll flood your boots if you step in) everywhere - so it was
very difficult to see what was going on. We could hear LOTS of
screaming though. Some of the field assistants who were closer to the
action though saw our males beat up a female from the other group.
Apparently she was bleeding badly - and our males also dragged her
baby away from her and stomped on the baby. Chimpanzees can be so
horrible to each other! Amazingly - it seems like both the female and
her baby survived the attack. However - this week, one of our
community females (Umbrella – the female I wrote about earlier) turned
up without her new two-month old baby, Umami. We (the students and
FA's) think that the 'stranger' males probably killed her baby. I
can't believe TWO babies have died since I've been here (4 months!).
Umbrella will likely start cycling again though - so there should be a
lot more sexual activity in the coming weeks which will be interesting
to see. I took a photo of Umbrella and her young baby before he died
– which is shown below. Being so young, Umami would typically cling
tightly to his mother. Thus, I was happy to be able to snap this photo
at a moment when Umami was stretching and exposing his bare, hairless

Snares in the Forest

February 10, 2010

Today I stepped in a snare while following chimpanzees in the forest.
I was so caught up in following the chimpanzees that I barely even
noticed the snare (it didn't deploy – fortunately). The field
assistants later told me that if the snare had worked – it would have
pulled wire taught around my ankle and hung me upside down by my foot…

Up to 25% of chimpanzees in Kibale and Budongo Forests have
snare-related injuries (i.e., missing hands or feet). Snares are
typically set by hunters who intend to catch duikers, bush pigs, or
other small mammals, but chimpanzees may become trapped in these
snares while walking through the forest. Chimpanzees can often free
themselves from the trap, but in trying to pull away from the snare –
a chimpanzee often inadvertently pulls the wire even tighter around
his/her limb. If no veterinary intervention is made, this often leads
to loss of circulation and gangrene – eventually resulting in the loss
of the affected limb. One juvenile male at Kibale, Max, was
unfortunate enough to lose both of his feet to two separate snare
traps. Amazingly though, Max still manages to walk and climb (albeit
at a slower pace than the other chimps). There are currently
snare-removal programs taking place at Kibale and other nearby
forests, where ex-hunters are employed to find and destroy forest
snares. Sadly though, snares continue to be a threat for wild
chimpanzees. Above are two photos of Twig, an adult male at Kibale who
lost his right hand to a snare.

Baboon in the House

February 2, 2010

At 7AM this morning I was sitting in our house working on my computer.
 Dean had stepped out to the kitchen (which is a separate building
behind our house) for a minute and left the back door open. While he
was gone, one of the BIG male baboons walked into the house... I
semi-noticed that it wasn't Dean from the corner of my eye. I started
yelling at the baboon to go, and he just stood there, looked around at
what goods we had to offer...and then fortunately left as I started to
walk towards him (still yelling!) without taking any food. Aye! That's
the first time we've had baboons in the house!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Kasiisi School and KIDA

February 20, 2010

Yesterday, I went to Kasiisi to help with teaching the computer class at 4, but found out that a local organization called KIDA (Kidojo Integrative Development Association) was going to put on a performance.  These are some pictures from their education talk at the beginning explaining the importance of hand washing and how to use a tippy tap (I need a better pic of one of these. Coming Soon!).  The mzungu in the picture is a Peace Corp volunteer, Mark. He's near the end of his term of service.  KIDA danced some after their hand washing lesson, and then put on a play for about an hour.  The play was about the importance of education and how "education empowers women."  Pretty good, even though it was all in Rutooro and all I got was ego, which means yes. :)  The picture here is the conservative sister and the less so sister arguing.  In the end, the conservative one goes to school and graduates and the other ends up pregnant, without husband, and broke.  I think it was good.  There were certainly a lot of laughs (I just laughed when others did :).

Oh, and I threw in a picture of Kasiisi School's grounds so you can get a better overview of where I go a few days a week.

Tippy tap education:


Kasiisi School grounds:

Kasiisi Project and OLPC

February 18, 2010

I wanted to share some pictures of yesterday in the classroom. These are of the computer class for P6 kids. I'll explain more below. First, I volunteer with the Kasiisi Project (a Boston-based NGO) and its Ugandan counterpart Kibale Forest Schools and Student Support Project (or KFS-SSP). These NGOs support five schools within the vicinity of the Kibale National Park (Kasiisi, Kiko, Kyanyawara, Kigarama, and Rweteera Primary Schools). Support is provided by way of scholarships to students who excel on their PLEs (or Primary Leaving Exams) for Secondary School. The easiest way to explain this is by saying the P1-P7 is like Elementary School in the States, and the S1-S6 is like Middle and High School. Primary School is funded by the Ugandan Gov't through UPE (or Universal Public Education), but not Secondary School. Other support the NGO provides includes a Girls Program for health and sanitation, conservation education, infrastructure
development, and a school lunch program (this one is primarily run by a sister program out of the UK called the Kasiisi Porridge Project).

In previous posts, I've said I'd be showing short films on conservation,which is still true, but slow in being organized (we're still waiting on important things to be printed and made). In the interim, I'm helping with
the OLPC (one laptop per child) program that was set up at Kasiisi School last summer by others (Jeff Bittner, Ian Wrangham, and Mathew Koojo). You can see the blog here: olpckasiisi.blogspot.com. I go to Kasiisi School 2-3 days a week for the afternoon to help Jeff (who's still here) and Chris (a new 3 month volunteer) with entering questions from student text books on a wireless server so the kids can take quizes on their XOs (the computers in the pics). It's pretty cool. This quiz-taking has just gotten underway, so I'll let you know how it goes.

In the pictures here, the kids are all playing a geography game called Geoquiz, which teaches them the countries of Africa (and South America if they so choose). A country is highlighted on a map, and 3-9 choices are offered on the screen, one being correct. It took a while to teach the kids that you had to highlight the correct country before telling the computer that it was your choice, but this week they seemed to understand much better (and we showed them the trick that makes the selection among three, rather than five countries). One of the kids, Edwin, is better at African geography than me, I think, and the rest are over the entire range of not knowing which is Uganda to knowing somewhere in between. I think that many are probably still struggling with the concept of highlighting the correct country from the options before selecting it. I'll keep you posted on how it goes!