For those of you who are new to this blog, or alternatively have no clue what I do, I am a zoologist in training. Specifically, I work on primates. I'm currently doing my masters on chimpanzee behaviour in captivity, but two years ago, I did my honours on baboon foraging behaviour in the wild. My research was based in a smallish reserve found south of Johannesburg, called the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. It's named after a particular type of Protea tree that is found in the area, called the Suikerbos (translated into English from the Afrikaans, it means 'sugarbush').
My honours project spanned a year. It entailed driving around this reserve's one road, looking for troops of baboons, and on the rare occasion that one was found, observing their behaviour and recording it. The major problem was that the baboons were so hard to find in this reserve that after a full year of driving around, looking for the animals, I came away with the equivalent of about 2 hours worth of observation time.
The reserve only has one road that runs through it. The road is treated as a one-way road and, as I'm sure you can imagine, it does tend to get a little tedious after about the fifth day of driving on it. So, to liven things up a little, and simultaneously live on the wild side, we used to occasionally drive along the road, the wrong way! (We are such rebels...)
Anyway, today, I went back to Suikerbosrand with a group of people from two Roots and Shoots groups from Soweto. Roots and Shoots is a program run through the Jane Goodall Institute that focuses on uplifting impoverished communities, alleviating the suffering of animals and generally doing good. So I was asked to join the little expedition as an 'experienced individual with knowledge of the area'. Truth be told, I don't actually know all that much and I'm not really a fan of the place given my experiences in honours.
Despite this, I went along. All in all, the day was a great success. It was enjoyed by all the others and, apart from an incident with a very hairy caterpillar in my pants (a story for another day) and an overenthusiastic individual, determined to drown me in conversation after an exhausting day on the bus, myself too. In fact, the reserve is really quite a pleasant place when you are not looking for baboons to study. However, one thing that really killed me about this trip was that we saw baboons.
Not only did we see baboons, but we saw 4 troops of baboons! That was more than I would see in a week when I was there last time and this was on ONE DAY!!!
So, I have decided to relinquish my crown and admit defeat. The baboons have broken me and won. I shall not research those baboons ever again...