The flicker of the campfire at the end of a day in remote Africa is something special indeed and I find myself again sitting back in appreciation at the realisation that I am here. A moss covered elephant skull brought back from an expedition at some stage provides a weathered and wild ambience by the campfire here and as I try to judge its age, I find myself thinking that, as wild and remote as this place is, I have encountered relatively few animals. Sometime in the maybe twenty years since the pachyderm passed, the animals here have disappeared or gotten very good at hiding. And though monkeys and baboons still skittishly frequent the trees, there is certainly nothing as big as an elephant here now. When you think about the growing number of farmers here, the size of their families and the scarcity of meat it's not all that surprising.
That's not to say the area is now void of biodiversity, on the contrary the lack of larger animals especially predators seems to have allowed the insect population to explode and birds, bats and lizards are also here in good numbers. The camp is frequented by a variety of large moths and butterflies generally the size of your palm and the beetles in the photographs are about the same size as small mice. The millipedes here get to about twenty centimetres and about a centimetre diameter, while the snails not to be outdone, are a little larger than a snooker ball some even preying on smaller snails. Dragonflies also visit from time to time and it was interesting to learn people happily eat them here. The other insects I'm hanging out to photograph here are the fireflies which provide rhythmic glow in yellow pulses as they almost float around on the darker nights.
The birds so far have been fairly plain. There are a few varieties of black and white shrikes that brave stealing from Tunzas food bowl and some others of little colour to speak of but I have seen a bright metallic green and red sunbird about the size of a fifty cent piece and there are some pretty cool woodpeckers that have bright red Mohawks. Heading to the airstrip I've also seen some ground hornbills (Think Zazu from the lion King) and some guinea fowls. There are mammals too, I'm told of the occasional bush buck and can personally vouch for the presence of the tree dwelling bush baby along with the monkeys and baboons. I found something I didn't recognise the other day too. A very small possum like creature with a bushy tail was darting up down and around on of the storage containers. I still haven't found anything quite like it in the books.
It's funny the guys here at camp have had experiences with some guests getting stir crazy in the past during the wet season and I think they think a arrived that way. In my first few days I strolled up to the staff mess tent, first holding an impossible to catch, blue headed gama lizard (that literally jumped out of a tree into my hand), then a day or so later I happened in with a poisonous scorpion I'd collected. Though my self-preservation instincts are well intact, I was a little taken back when they told me the scorpion was quite a bad one, not fatal but the sting is very painful and accompanied by nausia and fever. The information all the more daunting given that I had found the thing under one of my boots, which I was going to slip into without socks for a quick stroll to the garden. Sounds scary but it all makes for good fun and if I don't get to chase something new here for a day or two, I have a good collection of Attenborough to tide me over.
Coming from a background in tourism J.C was quick to point out wildlife and opportunities for photographs and with his departure, Laurensia too has cottoned on that I am a tragic tourist, getting great amusement now, from bringing me new bugs and watching me run off to get the camera. So have a look at the critters photos if you're into that sort of thing because there's something new every day here.