Captain’s Log-4 to 7 March 2012- Aerial Survey Epulu

Cher and I just finished up 4 days in the Ituri forest flying over the Epulu Okapi Reserve.  The ICCN and the Reserve are attempting to save certain areas of the forest so that they are not destroyed and all the animals  gone forever.  It is an uphill battle because humans are naturally greedy and selfish and would like to get everything they can for themselves.  Maybe that sounds a bit harsh but…hey, it’s true!
It is good to be a part of this effort as this is a World Heritage Site, a one-of-a-kind place with literally one-of-a-kind animals and habitat.

       A waterfall deep in the forest; perhaps a more common discovery to pilots in flight than to the rare visitor on the ground.             A beautiful sight.

So, we fly low over the forest looking for encroachment, deforestation, miners and poachers and then they send game scouts to those areas to deal with the situation.  We saw a fresh elephant kill in one of the most beautiful places in the park.  It is sad to see the loss of these amazing Forest Elephants that are under such pressure and I like being part of the effort to help save them.

A new group of game scouts celebrates the completion of their rigorous training. They are now ready to help protect the Okapi Reserve for future generations.

There are also many happy things on the surveys.  Mining has been reduced in many areas along the boundaries of the park, though there is still a ways to go to eradicate it.
The okapi are always interesting to see.  They are only found in Congo and only in this area of the Ituri Forest.  We also got to see the reserve’s new, young baby which was really fun.

The new okapi baby lies alone under a huge Terminalia tree waiting for the return of his mother. You can just see the beginnings of the horns that only males have.

These secretive animals are so rarely seen that to see babies is a real treat.   Like Bushbuck, the mother will hide them away in a secluded, sheltered place, coming back to nurse after feeding on her own for hours.  To see a baby Okapi out in the forest would be an incredibly lucky event, but the reserve has a good history of breeding  between the captive animals which are kept here for research and this two month old baby is one of their success stories.  After twenty-five years of working with them, Rosie Ruf, who should have a Doctorate degree in Okapi behavior, has discovered much about their habits and habitat.  For instance, when a female becomes pregnant and while feeding her young she will increase her water intake by 5 times; from about 20-30 liters a day to 100 liters a day.  And she has also learned that you can identify each individual Okapi by the shape of its droppings.  Fascinating!

Cher took a picture of me with some Pygmy friends. Usually the short one, it is different for me to be head and shoulders above the people I am with. 

It is also interesting interacting with the Pygmies.  I love the wealth of abilities and knowledge of the forest which they have passed down through generations and I try to learn as much as I can from them.  Besides making all their bows, arrows and spears they also make catapults, sling shots, out of natural rubber that they find in the forest.  I was too busy flying the survey to go with them and learn how it is done this time, but I arranged for next time and I am very excited about that.  I have a “wrist-rocket” manufactured in the States using surgical rubber tubing but the Pygmies rubber from the forest actually shoots faster than that.  Zaire, the chief of the Pygmies in this area, sat in the pilot’s seat of the Cessna 206 as we talked over who would teach me on my return.  It was an unusual experience and the kind of cultural thing that I love.  Cher and I are very blessed to spend time like this in the bush and we relish each opportunity.

Zaire, the Pygmy chief, sits delighted in the pilot’s seat of the Cessna 206 as we discuss my future plans to go into the forest to learn more of their ways.  I love the hats!

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7 Responses to Captain’s Log-4 to 7 March 2012- Aerial Survey Epulu

  1. Rich Carlson says:

    Jon, good to see and read of your adventures. Since I was out of town, Michael and Gail Armistead manned the MAF table on Sunday. They said many came paid a visit. MAF again did a good job of getting the materials to us on time. Several people signed up to be on our prayer team. I will get those names to you as soon as I get them myself. You and Cher are in our prayers. Hugs Rich

  2. Gill Haun says:

    It’s encouraging to hear of governments making significant efforts toward conservation. I was recently reading about Tete Province in Mozambique and the rapid push to develop its huge reserves of coal. One prediction said that by 2025 Tete could be exporting 25% of the world’s coal needs. And, they’re considering using the Zambezi River to move it down to the coast! When I remember the wildlife and people living on that river it makes my heart ache to consider how such a move would annihilate the ecosystem of the lower Zambezi. How would they run barges through the narrows of the Lupata Gorge 40 miles downstream from the city of Tete? (And, how about your Frelimo buddies sitting on top of the old Portuguese fort at Tambara just downstream of the gorge; how do you suppose they’d treat the passing traffic?) I hope Mozambique can somehow balance its need for development with the need to protect their environment. The potential of a coal industry to change the country economically is just as great as its potential to destroy a gem of nature.

    • jcadd says:

      Hi Gill, Always good to hear from you. It is a big effort everywhere to save these amazing places in the world. I can’t imagine how they could take coal in quantity down the Zambezi without seriously destroying the wildlife. There have been numbers of hippo and plenty of crocs there which would suffer if the digging needed to get even shallow draft barges up and down the river. Since Livingstone it has been a mission moving boats through all the sandy areas. Thanks for writing in my friend,
      Jon

  3. Krista says:

    So cool John! I was reminded this morning at our church missions conference that I saw your picture in the MAF calendar last month. We were at some friend’s for the Super Bowl and I walked past the fridge where they had the calendar hanging and went “Hey, I know that guy!”. Their son Shawn works at the MAF headquarters in IT or technology or something like that. He has one of the photo credits later in the year. Nice to see Lu’s credits for the photos too! 😉

  4. David Gilmer says:

    Im always glad to read your stories, and imagine I was still in Africa. I havent made it to the Opaki preserve yet, but after flying over it, and talking with you about it, have wanted to go. Maybe on a few years. You guys are living fascinating lives, and great ambassadors for the small world we live in. Keep it up and keep the posts coming.
    Dave

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