Since Serengeti we have started our directed research portion (DR).  I am totally in love with my DR project, I think it is going to be really cool once I get going.  I am not actually doing any additional data collection, but instead I am working with long term data that SFS has been collecting for a while.  My project has to do with a special type of conservation area, because Tanzania has a bunch of different types.  I’m working with a place called Manyara Ranch which is a partially protected area in an important wildlife corridor between two national parks.  It is protected but people are allowed to live there and graze their cattle there. So I am taking data that we have collected this semester and for the past two years and comparing it to data collected when Manyara Ranch was created ten years ago to see if the ranch is a successful form of conservation or not. 

I don’t have any new data collection, because we have been collecting data for this all semester and for the past few years I am helping other groups with their data collection.  So I, along with the other 3 people working with long term data rotate through two different projects.  The first project (and the one I work on 3 out of 4 days of our rotation since the one project needs more help than the other) has to do with livestock so I get to follow a Maasai herder around from 8:30 to 3:30…aka awesome!! The second project is involves riding through the parks and doing animals counts and stuff…aka also awesome!

This first project has been quite an adventure.  We spend all day out in these very open fields grazing cattle.  There are no trees or bushes in sight…anywhere, which makes taking a bathroom break a bit... interesting! Haha 
The very first day we were out in this field measuring the distance between cows in the herd when one of the other members of my group called us over because one of the goats was giving birth! The birth was so quick that I missed the actual birth, but I got to see her learn to walk and it was so precious!! We named her Sneezy because that was the first thing she did when she popped out! The Maasai think we are crazy, because we like to play with baby goats and we chase cows around trying to measure their girth with a tape measure (its not possible, these cows are racists!)

It’s so funny trying to do research out in the field, because we frequently have between 3 and 10 Maasai kids hanging on our arms and playing with our field equipment.  We have made them our unofficial research assistants!

People here are so generous! The day after Sneezy was born, we were at the house of a different Maasai herder and we were playing with his baby goats and he offered to give us one! It was incredibly difficult to say no because baby goats are so cute, but we explained that we would have no way to care for it since we would be leaving Tanzania in a month.  Still, I couldn’t believe that a complete stranger was willing to just give me a baby goat just because I thought it was cute. 

In other (sadder news) the rains have gotten a bit out of control.  It rains so hard every night all night long, which isn’t a big deal for us doing our fieldwork but Lake Manyara National Park (LMNP) is a mess right now and so is the town of Mto wa Mbu.  Fortunately (I guess) they are pretty used to floods, so it doesn't do too much structural damage to their houses)  Mto wa Mbu is in a bit of a valley where it doesn’t actually rain that much, but they get all of this water come down off the mountains from Ngorongoro Crater and they are just getting wiped out repeatedly by floods upon floods.  LMNP is right near the town and it was actually closed for a day or two, because the bridges were wiped out, and all of the buildings like the bathrooms and the visitors center are buried by rocks and mud.  I don’t really understand how, but there must have been incredible amounts of water coming through the area because what appears to be an avalanch of rocks the size of soccer balls and bigger have buried everything and the park is more of a wetlands for the moment.  Many of the roads have turned into little rivers fortunately our cars can make it through anything!  I went to the park yesterday, and even from the morning to the end of the day the improvement was impressive.  The cleanup work has created a lot of jobs for local people, which is one positive thing that came from it.    

Today was our day off and it was much needed! Spending all day out in the sun is exhausting, and I needed today just to recuperate.  I did a little bit of work revising my research proposal and then I did a bunch of relaxing.  Most non-program days I just want to go out and do all of the activities because how often am I in Tanzania?!?! I can relax when I’m dead! But today I needed to just stay at camp and do nothing, and now I feel great and I’m ready for tomorrow!

Old Bessie here I come!

Christine

 


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