My work involved supervising an anti-parasite drug resistance project carried out by students taking part in the Global Health Field School in Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). In brief, this meant getting up before sunrise to get to the field sites to sample and treat herds of goats and sheep. We would then return to camp and spend the day analyzing fecal samples for specific parasites. Yes, you read that right! Herds with high parasite levels were re-sampled about 2 weeks later to determine the effectiveness of the deworming treatment, which allowed us to gauge the likelihood of drug resistance.
At night the livestock are contained in these bomas to protect them from lions, hyenas and leopards, but from sunrise to sunset they spend their days grazing wherever the best vegetation can be found, all while under the watchful eyes of the Maasai. The pink marking on this young goat indicates that we treated it.
The reward of having our field site in NCA was the abundant wildlife that can be seen and heard from both within and around or camp.This included almost daily sightings of giraffe while we sat around the table eating our meals!
Maasai giraffe in the background, with a traditional Maasai shuka (cloth blanket) hung out to dry on an acacia tree.
After a long day of work in the lab, the reward was a game of soccer with the locals or going for walks surrounding our camp. Most days that meant coming across numerous species of birds and a small herd of these Burchell’s zebra in fields of wildflowers!
Other times it was impala, vervet monkeys or baboons trying to raid our camp for food (they were never successful), and the occasional elephant! Heard almost nightly were the whooping contact calls of hyenas and while we didn’t see or hear any lions or leopards, they are known to wander through from time to time. For some, this might have been their worst nightmare, but for me it made for one of the best field sites I’ve ever stayed at!
While their parents attend a ceremony, these kids make good use of a small playground as a storm builds in Western Uganda. This wouldn’t be uncommon to see in North America but this is the first time I have seen a playground for kids in Uganda!
Among the many species along the shores of the Nile, two crocodiles take in some Vitamin D, while a waterbuck calf nurses and warthogs feed along the banks.
A child waits for company to arrive home near the banks of Lake Edward
First, this scene is one uniquely African. A man rests in his brightly coloured fishing boat while his wife takes care of their baby while keeping an eye on a buffalo. Buffalo are one of the fiercest animals in Africa and they will actively defend themselves and members of the herd. However, this old bull didn’t seem to care about anything other than sleeping. Once a bull gets dethroned, he leaves the herd and lives out the rest of his days on his own or with other displaced males. This one seemed to have set up his territory in a small village in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
However, the more interesting fact, which seems to be unique to many countries in Africa, is that in general African babies cry substantially less than babies in North America. Repeatedly, this has been one of the only saving graces on my long, overcrowded bus rides throughout East Africa, where everyone is packed like sardines into the buses. I often wondered if this was just my own observation or if it had been studied. Indeed, it has been studied by a man named Ron Barr out of the University of Montreal. He and other researchers concluded that it is due to the fact infants are carried around in direct contact with their mothers for at least the first three months, fed much more often and provided immediate attention whenever they are in distress (as compared to North American infants that are often placed in a crib or only held for limited periods of time). Hopefully this catches on in other parts of the world as the last thing anyone wants is to listen to a crying baby!
On a few occasions during this trip I noticed women herding cattle, which is almost exclusively a job assigned to boys and young men throughout East Africa. My hunch is that this is a product of the still tremendously high prevalence of HIV/AIDS leading to changes in family roles depending on who in the family survives.
Despite the close proximity of several hippos, crocodile and buffalo, this man decided to jump in for a bath in the Kazinga Channel. The channel connects Lake George and Lake Edward on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. A boat launch from Mweya penninsula takes tourists along the channel and the entire trip is action packed with seemingly non-stop sightings of a tremendous diversity of mammalian and avian species. At the tip of the channel is a small village which the park actively helps by employing many of the villagers and providing them with fresh well water.
A man walks his bicycle loaded up with carefully stacked sugar cane stalks back to his village.
With the boat only a few inches above water, two fisherman attempt to catch Nile perch and tilapia in Lake Victoria.
With thorns up to 4-5cm in length, the leaves of the acacia tree are somewhat protected from grazing herbivores. By using a slow shutter speed I was able to get the raindrops streaking through the photo during a downpour in Lake Mburu National Park.
With an audience of one, a young girl puts on a dance show in a small village adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
I’m not a big fan of Mitsubishi vehicles but I took this SUV through everything and it never once got stuck. This photo was taken from Pelican Point in Queen Elizabeth National Park. It is very infrequently visited and so the ‘road’ had grown in with grasses and acacia thorn trees, but the view was well worth the trip. In the distance is the Rwenzori mountain range which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and still on my list of places to visit in Uganda.
All afternoon the skies were threatening to put a damper on my game drive but thankfully they held off until I was under a patio at Mweya Safari Lodge overlooking the gorge and peninsula. The lodge was much too expensive for my budget but they served an excellent 4 course meal for a reasonable price to anyone that wondered in. The place I was staying was just down the road and the food was not nearly as good, nor was the view anything to marvel at so the lodge was perfect. I didn’t have room to bring my tripod on this trip so when the storm hit I used the dinner table to set the camera on and set the shutter speed to 20 seconds. The first few tries I was unsuccessful, but eventually I got lucky. At least seven different bolts of lightning can be seen in this photo.