Led by E.O. Wilson, a team of scientists, educators, science writers, and wildlife biology students is working in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique this Spring to document a story of transformation in this "Lost Eden" of Africa. This second expedition is gathering the lessons to be learned from Gorongosa about ecology and evolution, and will present Gorongosa as a model ecosystem in the digital textbook "E.O. Wilson's Life on Earth."
Portions of the expedition will be told within this blog. Download E.O. Wilson's Life on Earth for free from iBooks to see how last year's expedition was incorporated into the book.
Friday, May 11, 2012
The hunt for small game
Camp Chitengo, Gorongosa National Park
Today we saw some big game in the Park, but our focus was on
the smaller game. Gary Alpert,
Piotr Naskrecki, Fernandino (a young Gorongosi biologist), and I joined Bob Poole and his wife Gina who took us out in their heavily
modified Land Rover – set up for filming elephants. Bob used this vehicle to film “War Elephants” which is
out on National Geographic. His
vehicle has survived intense attacks by charging elephants. It is believed the elephants
remember the intense shooting and hunting that occurred during the Civil War
and see vehicles in the park as threats.
The film is actually about recent efforts to calm these elephants – this
work is led by Bob’s sister who studies the behavior of elephants.
Bob Poole's elephant-ready rig.
Today we began our survey work to determine the species
richness of ants and orthoptera in the Park. Piotr sampled with his sweep net through the tall
grass. The technique uses a net
resembling a butterfly net but the handle and frame are stronger than a tennis
racket. The netting material is similar to strong cloth canvas. The net is quickly passed back and
forth through the grass to collect small insects living in this habitat. He was able to collect many specimens
at each locale we surveyed. The
most dramatic aspect of the survey were the incredible number of praying
mantids in the yellow fever tree forest.
He commented that with this top predator (of insects) in such numbers means
the insect prey items for these abundant mantids must be very high in abundance. This is what we came for -- wetter
spring that would have a greater diversity and overall number of insects.
Piotr sorting through sweep net sample.
I assisted Gary in his collection of ants. He sampled directly off mounds and trees with Fernandino. I also filmed ants and their behavior and habitat. While trying to take out some carpenter ants (Camponotus sp.) out of nest on a fallen branch I came upon an ant I hadn’t seen here before. I informed Gary and discovered this is likely a species of subterranean driver ant (Dorylus sp.) that has not been described in Mozambique. They are blind and are known to create an ant mill when disturbed or their path gets redirected. Interestingly they began this behavior when placed in a collecting and sorting tray. Supposedly if caught in such an ant mill, blind ants will follow each around and around until they die.
Subterranean drivers which may represent a new find for Mozambique.
Ed Wilson arrived this afternoon and we reviewed our plans
for the next 3 weeks working on E.O.
Wilson‘s Life on Earth and the Digital Gorongosa Project. He was very happy to be back and we are
all excited to have him join our group.
What a day. Jet
lag is slowly leaving us and we are slipping into the routine of Chitengo. Lots to see, discover, photograph
and write about. A bush baby is
calling out into the night. This
signals the day’s end.