It's been a while, but I've been busy. I have to leave Lajuma pretty soon and looking for another job takes up a lot of my time. I've got a bunch of applications pending, so wish me luck!
We have been having a bit of a drought here. It is supposed to be the rainy season but we had weeks without any rain. Plants were wilting in the forest and some of the streams dried up. There were distant thunderstorms almost daily but they always rumbled their way around the mountain without touching us. Then the other day a group from the University of Venda came to work on invertebrates. Their study requires dry weather, so naturally it started raining the day they arrived and hasn't stopped since. At least the baboons will be happy: it was so dry they had to resort to digging up grass corms like they do in winter. They do hate getting wet though. They also bite through the water pipes to get a drink, and I think at least one may have figured out how to turn on the outdoor tap. I saw about six of them queueing to drink from the tap. They queue baboon-style, from largest to smallest not by who has been waiting longest.
Babooning has not been going very well. The troop keeps going much farther than they used to, so I keep seeing new places. I have been most of the way up several of the peaks in the area, sometimes more than one in a day. Baboons don't need any sissy trails since they can move easily through thick undergrowth. They can also climb cliffs that I won't attempt without ropes, and move as fast vertically as they could on flat ground. I guess it helps that they are insanely tough and if they fall 10 m onto pointy rocks they just run right back up. In their usual home range I know all the shortcuts so I can go around the worst of the cliffs and thickets, but if they go someplace new it gets tougher. I lose them a lot, and that means patrolling around trying to find them again. You would think it would be easy to find 80-odd large noisy animals, but they could be anywhere in their 2000 ha home range and there are several other troops that use the same area. I had to leave them yesterday morning because there was a thunderstorm and they headed for the highest ground around (you never hear about baboons being hit by lightning though). We tried to find them all afternoon but failed, so I have the morning off. We will look again this afternoon if it isn't raining too much.
One nice thing happening now is stemfruit season. Most of the foods baboons eat are distinctly unpalatable to people, like grass and green figs, but stemfruit tastes great, sweet and a bit tangy. They look and taste a bit like litchis, but with smooth skin and pink flesh. It is fun to forage along with the baboons, but I don't take too many because the monkeys need them more. I can just buy exotic fruits in town. Litchis and pineapples and mangoes are ridiculously cheap here, and the more usual fruits like plums are very fresh and sweet.
On that note, I think I will have fruit for lunch, and maybe make some pancakes too.