Author’s note: So I’m almost at the end of my 2 hours of Free Wifi that comes at the Cost of me buying something from Starbucks. Excuse spelling errors. It is difficult to work on a tablet and I will try and upload pictures when possible.(Please read the Day 1-3 and 4-6 before reading this). Visit this website nevertheless to learn what the Pig-tailed macaques are.
Day 7:Displaced and raided
We got to the sleeping site on time (giving me the chance to use my head torch). We could not hear anything and sight of them was obscured but we knew it would take time for them to awaken. So we sat there and quickly gobbled down our breakfast lest we have to start following them. But they were taking their own sweet time. Luckily, we could hear stereotypically pig-tail sounds so we sat there. Around 45 minutes after sitting there, we were able to catch a glimpse of the Beta male- Oliver. But he too walked on the ground and up a tree. We sat again in anticipation and everything grew quiet. But as I previously mentioned- these monkeys can be eerily quiet. After a wile though, sunlight streaming through the forest made us suspicious and we decided to get out of the forest and in the direction we thought they were headed. I spotted a male I did not recognise and we decide to follow him. There were other pig-tails an they were running away in large numbers towrads the forest. We looked around to see what their perceived threat was. Wait…were we the threat? AMY’s habituated to us and shouldn’t run away this fast….”This must be VOLDEMORT” Anna uttered the dreaded inference. She was sure she saw AMY and followed them and it was them that we left at last night’s sleeping site. A likely scenario was that VOLDEMORT displaced them after we left (VOLDEMORT often bullies AMY). And now, we had lost AMY…again. Back to yesterday’s strategies. But today, we were sleep deprived and annoyed. So at around 12:30- after searching and waiting, we decided to go back home for lunch and come back at around 3 when we hoped they would come out to the oil-palm plantation. When I got to the kitchen Anna was cleaning up. I realised my packet of bread was on the floor and was torn. “why is my bread on the floor?”. “The long-tails got in. They ate my bananas”, they had also rummaged through the trash and had a go an Mimi’s papaya. The day just kept getting better.
We reached the reserve at around 3:30 and split up yet again. I was at checkpoint 2.5 when I saw pigtails crissing from the forest into the plantation. They looked at me- there were around 10 of them. I made the clicking noise they have learned to associate with our orange t-shirts (signifying that we are no threat). And then I recognised Norbert- the Alpha. I called Mimi and Anna- AMY had been lost, and was found many hours later. Better than being “LOST” for days. We followed them, no mistakes this time. They leisurely walked and foraged in the plantation and started heading back to their new sleeping site. We waited for awhile, realised it was starting to get cloudy and thunder-stormy again so we left to avoid last time’s debacle. And this time, I drove to and from the site on the motorbike. We barely made it back before it started to pour, even worse than the last time. So that is where the matters stand and we hope to have no such dramas tomorrow morning.
Day 8: With great power
We started the day at 6:45am and reached checkpoint 2 on time. The skies were still dark but it was good otherwise….that is until Anna decided that it was time I led them to the sleeping site and followed AMY so she and Mimi could follow. Ok, I figured out how to ride a bike…I can do this. We realised early on this time that we were at the edge of the group’s sleeping site and so we followed them closely this time. Not that we could see them. The juveniles make a crying sound and the females hoot- sometimes if you are lucky. But we kept our course. I had already fallen on my arse twice while getting to the sleeping site thanks to the wonderful job the rain had done. And now we were following the macaques onto a rocky mound with no trees to hold on to except- surprise surprise- spiny rattan palms. Since I was leading, I got the privilege of unwittingly trying to climb up a rock while avoiding many a spiny branch. Guess what- I didn’t and so Mimi and Anna gave me the opportunity to hack the sh*t out of the dried stems with their machetes. And I did, as successfully as I could. All this while, AMY had hardly covered a distance of more than a 100 metres. We followed them further up and hen down to…just 50 metres from where they were sleeping! And then we heard the unmistakeable sound of thunder. There was a flurry and most of the individuals climbed even further up trees. So we knew they were planning to wait out the rain and so could we. Needs are stripped down to their foundation when you have no cell reception and are in the middle of a forest. You scratch yourself, inspect for leeches/other parasites and eat while you can-just like the macaques. The rain lasted for about an hour and so did we- AMY and the three of us. Mimi decided to go back for the day while Anna and I stayed. And AMY decided to venture out of the forest and into the plantation. We observed and marked some more individuals on the roll (YEP- we take attendance). Jesuef was back again. The hunk of a macaque made guest appearances and had a proclivity for picking up fights with the larger males. We even saw him mounting who we think was Oliver- the current Beta. Mounting in males is done by the dominant male. Is Jesuef slowly trying to creep up in rank? Who knows. Anyway- their time in the plantation gave me another chance to revise the names and features of individuals I know to make it easier for me to teach the new volunteers when they arrive and so I can successfully start collecting behavioural data and even faeces. It started drizzling once again but many individuals did not bother going back into the forest to hide. Until, there were strong winds and the sound of thunder again. This time, we knew they wouldn’t move much as it would soon start poring and we too wanted to get back to camp ASAP to avoid last time’s fun. Luckily we had cell reception and asked Mimi to come pick us up in the car. It was only 5:30 but looked like it was 7 pm. As I type, it has been pouring heavily for around an hour and a half. Of course, tonight is chicken soup or instant noodles night and tomorrow is another new adventure.
Day 9: Incapacitated
As per yesterday’s plan, I would cover the afternoon shift today starting at 1 pm and staying till we were sure the macaques were at the sleeping site. After the terrible rains yesterday and last night, the morning was quieter. I woke up with a severe pain in my right foot and attributed it to the past few days of hill-climbing and wading through water, muck and vegetation. So, after Anna and Mimi left, I decided to apply something to alleviate the pain. Only, when I brushed my finger in between my third and fourth toe, there was a shooting pain. Let me tell you that it is not an easy task to sit down and contort your body and separate your 3rd and 4th toeto inspect…what looked like a grey blob-that I with a heavy heart decided must be pus from a festering woung (pause to create gross mental image). However, i decided to look at it under my phone’s flashlight . The blob looked like it had reddish-brown legs- 8 legs “It’s a tick” I diagnosed for non one’s benefit but my own. Interet searches told me they grown grey and big when they have been feeding for quite some time. Great- how long has this been her. I’ve had dull aches I associated with walking everyday. I quickly sanitised a pair of tweezers, breathed in and out rapidly and pulled, hopefully the entire creature. I identified the tick to my best abilities and ensured I had no symptoms and then tended the wound. It had begun pouring again and the sky was overcast which matched my mood exactly as I discovered that I couldn’t walk on the balls of my feet thanks to immense pain. I then received message from Anna and Mimi that the plantation was flooded and so was the way to the reserve. And I was supposed to ride the motorbike through that. Regretfully I informed them of my consition and they were sympathetic and said we’d go to a doctor as soon as a symptom presented itself. I decided to pair my misery by finally reading the classic ‘Wuthering Heights’ to set the melancholic mood. More rain outside. At 11:45- the yard outside our houses was flooded as was the way to the kitchen (housed in a separate hut-read about yesterday’s raid). I heard our gate open. Anna and Mimi had also had a dismal day. And after being constantly rained on, wading through knee-high water and finally losing the macaques in the planatation (A phenomenon I was assured neveer ever happens), they decided to call it quits. And a good thing too because it kept raining even more. we had decided yesterday that we would take tomorrow off but no one accounted for these continuous rains in what everyone assures me is NOT the rainy season.. I bandaged my foot so as to cushion it when I walked, finished Wuthering Heights and drank tea-trying to relax thanks to a pesky ectoparasite and unseasonal rain.