It’s been an amazing three and a half weeks here in Rhotia, filled with amazing classes, guest lectures, and field exercises. One of my favorite experiences so far has been a full day at Lake Manyara National Park, the closest National Park to our camp. At the park, we did a field exercise for our Wildlife Ecology class and practiced identifying large mammals for our Wildlife Management class. This was our first experience with the wildlife of Tanzania as well, which made the trip even more exciting!
Within two minutes of entering the park, we saw our first animals, the blue monkeys. Though they were exciting to see, my favorite moment of the day was seeing our first elephants. We were about 10 feet away from a small herd of elephants on the side of the road, and it was amazing to see them so close! A mother elephant even charged our car to “protect” her baby. Don’t worry though, we were completely safe! Dr. Kiffner (our wildlife management professor) told us that if she was actually planning on hurting us, she wouldn’t have charged us, she would have just attacked. After seeing the elephants, we continued on to our actual field exercise- an ethogram of baboon behavior. An ethogram is when you watch an animal (or group of animals, in this case) and every so often record what those animals are doing. We watched a troop of olive baboons for two hours, and recorded their behaviors every five minutes. Though some people might think that would be boring, we had an amazing time watching them!
After our ethogram and lunch, we did a game drive around the park to look for the large mammals we needed to identify. Though we didn’t see any of the carnivores we hoped to see, we saw plenty of other mammals, including impala, dwarf mongooses, hyraxes, hippos, wildebeest, zebra, and many more. It was amazing to see all of these animals, and I can’t wait to continue studying them this semester!