Captain’s Log-November 15, 2015-Aerial Survey over the Okapi Wildlife Reserve

The first team on the survey this year. Rosie Ruf photos all points of interest as we fly.

The first team on the survey this year. Rosie Ruf photos all points of interest as we fly.

Loving African wildlife as I do, it is always a pleasure when I get to help the parks here in Congo. Rosie Ruf organized an aerial survey to check for poachers and illegal mining within the Okapi reserve so Cher and I flew out for 3 days. It was great to be back in the forest and be over so much of it again.   I had done about 4 days earlier in June and this was finishing up the process. This kind of survey is totally different from the game counts I used to do in Zimbabwe. The forest is SO thick with layers of canopy that you can rarely see animals on the ground unless they are in one of the small openings called an “ido”. We try to find where populations of people are moving into the park and cutting trees or poaching, (which we usually find by smoke for the fires to cure meat), but also to see where illegal mining is going on. The rivers get dug up and mercury and other harsh chemicals are dumped into the rivers and everything downstream dies.   It is pretty bad. This is not our normal flying but it is good to help the country and protect the wildlife.

Cher and boeu riding along to Epulu. of course he had to come. He is needs his mom.

Cher and Beau riding along to Epulu. Of course he had to come. He is needs his mom.

The

The “control” barricade at the station with the Congo flag in the foreground as well as guards in the little guard house. Even some women rangers nowadays!

A Congo loaded mini-van on the Epulu-Kisangani road. There is a roadblock at the Station to check for wildlife and other contraban. Chimps, parrots and baby okapi are sometimes found.

A Congo loaded mini-van on the Epulu-Kisangani road. There is a roadblock at the Station to check for wildlife and other contraband. Chimps, parrots and baby okapi are sometimes found.

So we put 3 people in the plane and I fly routes through the park along rivers and boundaries and where there are known incursions and see where patrols need to be sent. This eastern part Congo where we live is much like gold rush days in California or Alaska and there are 1000’s of men and women and boys working little streams all over. I will have to write more about that sometime because it is very interesting seeing the similarities of lifestyle now in Congo and in the mid 1800’s in the US. We are always being asked to “promote” or “Grub steak” a guy who wants enough to get picks and shovels and all the little things he needs to get started on a claim. They come back with tiny little glass bottles with a few gold flakes in them and you wonder how they make a living. But then someone pulls out a nugget and people stay on. There are claim jumpers and bandit groups who rob the miners and saloons and whore houses and all the stuff that we had in the Wild West gold rush days. There are co-ops and big Chinese mines with heavy equipment dredges in the rivers as well as strip mining the beautiful riverine vegetation. In Doko, a South African company is running what will be the most productive gold mine in the world that is massive and run very professionally.

Hunting with some pygmies in the forest. There were six guys with me and I really felt like Snow white with the seven dwarfs. Very cool.

Hunter gathering with some Pygmies in the forest. There were six guys with me and I really felt like Snow White with the seven dwarfs.  They show me all the things to eat and how to make their shelters and good stuff to survive in their environment.  Very cool.

I had a chance to walk in the forest one morning for hours with the Pygmies. I truly love that. They are born hunters and gatherers and know the forest like the back of their hands. Fruit, honey, mushrooms, monkeys, forest pigs and animals of all sorts are on the menu and it is fascinating to see how they gather it all and their traditions and culture. I was with 6 men who were all below shoulder height to me and I felt like Snow White with the 7 dwarfs or something very surreal as we moved quietly through the forest. They are as comfortable in their natural environment as I am in the air.

Some pygmy women around the fire with a house in the background.

Some Pygmy women around the fire with a house in the background.

We had a chance to be with Chui, the little Genet that Cher raised for many weeks when he was only a few weeks old. He remembered us, which was nice, and we played till my arms were shredded with little bites and scratches. He is full grown now and about the size of a cat with shorter legs and the most striking spotted coat and longer stripped tail. So much fun.

Cher with Chue the genet, now all grown up. He goes walkabout sometimes but always comes back.

Cher with Chui the genet, now all grown up. He goes walkabout sometimes but always comes back.

One of the little

One of the little “dukas” or shops in town. Shows nice fat healthy people changing money for “love” but then the effects of AIDS after time. All too common here in Congo and a good warning.

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This entry was posted in Cuture, Hunter/gatherer, Life in Africa, Pilot stuff, Wildlife and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Captain’s Log-November 15, 2015-Aerial Survey over the Okapi Wildlife Reserve

  1. Kent Cassels says:

    Comm check? This work or is there a better email?

    Conservation pilot looking for an African contact and work.

    Kent Cassels

  2. Joel Masselink says:

    Nice to see some images from Epulu and the Ituri forest!

  3. Rob Fynn says:

    Love to you guys , Capt John – when shall we meet again? XXX to Cher

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