After being at the SFS Center for Wildlife Management Studies for 3 full weeks, it’s finally starting to feel like home. The first few days were all fun and games, filled with icebreakers and no classes, but we quickly settled into a routine when classes started. Our classes started out in the classroom, where we learned a lot about wildlife conservation and management, human-wildlife conflict, and mammal ecology, as well as learning a lot of Swahili that we have been eager to use when talking to all the staff members and the local people of Rhotia. In addition to our classroom time, we have also had a few traveling lectures and a field exercise at Lake Manyara National Park our second week here.
For our first field exercise, we observed olive baboons within the park. We did this for 2 hours and recorded the major behaviors in the troops every 5 minutes by doing a scan from standing on top of the seats and poking our heads out the tops of the safari cars. The categories of behaviors were: foraging, locomotion, resting, social interaction, sexual, and maintenance. Over the course of the morning, my car lost the troop a couple times so we ended up observing 4 different troops, with some of them having over 70 individuals ranging in all different ages! It was super interesting watching the troop dynamics and observing how the baboons interact with each other and with other species in the park.
After the exercise was complete around 11 am, we had until 6 pm to explore the park. Everyone loved seeing all of the animals and many excitedly said “It finally feels like we are in Africa!” and “This reminds me of Magic Kingdom in Disney World!” Before the lunch break, my group had the opportunity to come within 3 feet of a couple of elephants who were passing right by our car, which was an amazing experience for all of us. We also saw plenty of other animals like zebras, vervet and blue monkeys, hippos, many ungulates, birds, and giraffes to name a few. After a full day of standing and hip bumping in the back of the car, it was fun to get back to camp and share stories from the day with those who were in other cars. Nobody saw any lions or leopards, so everyone is excited to get back into the field this next week when we spend 4 nights camping in the Manyara-Tarangire ecosystem!