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Sangha Lodge, CAR

Caterpillar at Sangha Lodge

Life at Sangha Lodge has been very positive the last few months and things develop in the right direction. Normality as far as it can exist in this weird and wonderful country is returning to normal. I say that mainly as there is now a presence at the park HQ of some new WWF staff that has brought a sense of stability to the project. Add to That Andrea Turkalo [Google her if you don t know who I am talking about] has also returned and things are starting to look good. Bangui is also fairly calm although it does have some days of disturbances, the real tension is not nearly as bad as in the past and the Charter companies are available to fly people down to Bayanga should anyone want to try that route.

Meanwhile we don t have any real chance of tourism here just yet, and optimistically we can hope that tourist will start returning in numbers by 2015 or 2016 should the stability continue.

Our life at the lodge continues, I have been involved in some consulting work to help develop a master plan for regional tourism for the 3 National parks that make up the tri-national park system here, our Park, Dzanga sangha, and the adjacent parks in Republic of Congo and Cameroon, Nouabale Ndoki and Lobeki National parks. This has been fairly interesting and meant I have had some extended time in the field, with another field trip due early next month to Lobeki in Cameroon.

We have also started our adult education program here with a pilot program to teach our staff English, a vital skill for anyone working in the tourism sector. We hope that this develops into something a lot bigger and the enthusiasm that our staff is showing right now is a real boost to Tamar and my own morale.

Although tourism is dead and remains dead for now, we have had some guests passing through the lodge. Everyone is here to work in some way or another . Film makers making a documentary on elephants and the work of Andrea Turkalo, Journalists working on several different stories all related to conservation and conflict in some way, these all help keep the staff on their toes and productive. Right now we have some friends from Douala staying a few days, as well as a single Journalist working for the New Yorker who will be here for the coming week. Always interesting!

Wildlife has been good around the lodge, as we like to promote the smaller creatures as well as the charismatic African icons, we tend to look for and try and observe some of the smaller mammals around the camp, Elegant needle Clawed Galago is very common at our room and calls throughout the night, it is possibly the most stunning of the Galago family with its rich fawn coloured back, contrasting with the pale underparts. The specimens we get here all have obvious white tips to the tails which I have not seen illustrated anywhere.

We have set up a series of camera traps around the lodge and are hopeful of adding several of the smaller mammals to our lists here.

We have some excellent footage of a family of flat headed cusimanses emerging form a hole at the base of a huge tree. Some months ago I kept one and we rehabilitated him back into the forest, we live in hope that he was one of the family we filmed, hard to tell for sure but we like to believe that.

Later on the same day at the same lair, we set an extra camera to hopefully get better pictures as the Mongoose emerged, but the lair was taken over in the afternoon by a family of Red Cheeked rope squirrels, who proceeded to raise a young in the same holes and we have loads of footage of them going back and forth with food.

And then there was this Brush tailed porcupine we hand raised. She became more and more independent, until she lived almost all the time in the forest somewhere near our cabin, she used to come into the room at night and stamp here back foot several times on our wooden floor, first at Tamar s side of the bed and then at mine. we would take it in turns to feed her……. her visits became less and less frequent until she stopped coming altogether. A successful release we believe.

Birding has been great, we have been keeping weekly list since returning to the Lodge in mid July, and we have recorded over 200 species in the camp since our return. We tend to average around a hundred species a week, and at this time of year we find some interesting Palearctic migrants passing through. This week we had a Whinchat, a tree Pipit and a Jacobin Cuckoo, strange species to find here in the heart of the rainforest. Add to that Nkulenga Rails, vermiculated Fish owls, and a host of different rainforest specials make this a great birding stop. As I write this a flock of white Throated bee-eaters calls in the trees above my head.

Tamar has been hand raising a blue Duiker, and she [The Duiker] gives so much pleasure and demands so little, she is a pure joy to have around… in a few weeks time we will open the enclosure and she will start to roam free, hopefully becoming more and more independent until her hormones kick in and she leaves to find a mate. Pangolins which for a while were being caught in big numbers locally have seemed to drop off the radar for the last couple of months. I think this may be due to the rain season in full spate, when Pangolins are harder to catch as you can t hear them easily on the forest floor, but it may be due to some of the work we have been doing trying to spread the word not to eat these vulnerable animals. Sadly though, I think it the former and not our efforts.

Finally as we head into December, do help us by promoting where possible the idea of visiting the lodge. It is open and safe right now. Travel through Cameroon and Rep Congo is possible, and via Bangui by air is also possible. The biggest drawback is the negative perception of war and Ebola for the record we have neither here at the lodge and there are no reports of Ebola from CAR at all, or from any of our Neighbouring countries and their neighbours.

I would really like to thank all the people whose support has kept us here and functioning without tourists, too many to mention by name at this point, but you are not forgotten and will always have a special position here at Sangha Lodge.

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