They Call Me.. The Shadow!

29 11 2010

I told you today would be an easy day. It wasn’t super easy, but it was engaging and interesting enough to make up for the lack of ease… bah, I am only here for a short period of my life. What do I need ease for?

Doc JFK... the man.. the myth... the legend.

I got a very awesome opportunity to job shadow the vets today. I think I have spoken passionately enough to you in the last article (if you don’t know about MGVP yet please read this and this). I arrived early at MGVP headquarters so I could upload yesterdays Blog, and Dr. Jan had a surprise for me. Dr. Jean Felix was going to visit the orphans and I got to tag along. Another whole hour with my favorite group of miscreants.

After I got to tag along with Dr. Jan on her rounds… It was like high school. I was gonna job shadow. This was a great way for me to get shots of vets in action. On top of that Dr. Mike is on an intervention and he took along one of my GoPro cameras so that we will have the first full view of a vet in the field. I can’t wait to see it when he comes back, they are removing the noose from the baby!

Jean Felix and I trucked out early to head to the Orphan compound. I spent a ton of time with them this week, so it was really nice to take a bit more time to compose shots and observe the lowland gorilla. Jean Felix is currently collecting samples (poo) from them to track their stress level after the move of their dominant gorillas. Last week just before we arrived, the vets moved the two mountain gorillas in the group to a larger enclosure in the DRC. The move was a herculean task, involving three countries and all the vets and staff. With the help of the caretakers he spent time with each one, observing behaviour and checking for wounds.

You will notice that the vets stay behind a fence. They are very concerned about transfer with this group. The orphans are very important to the survival of this species. Only the cartakers come withing regualr direct contact. Everyone coming from outside must wear clean suits and masks at all times. Visitors like myself must stand 7 feet away from the wall on top of the MGVP truck. We are not allowed anywhere near them. But from atop the truck I could see everything.

Woot! Ride time!

We were there at playtime. Two young ones tolled and played, a baby clung to the new dominant female, and finally, one miscreant climbed the tree he knows he is not supposed to climb… to stick his tongue out at me and pick his nose.

Most of the trees in the encosure have been torn up from being gorilla playthings, but one ancient hygania still stands. The caretakers take great pains to keep the kids off the tree, but sometimes they get up there. It reminds me, when i was a kid I used to climb this giant tree in our forest and watch the cars. I never told my mom about it because I knew it would freak her out. This guy was having a blast being told to get out of the tree.

All too soon my hour was over. Even behind a fence, 7 feet away and on top a truck, there are still very stringent time limits. It was sad, as this is the last time I will be able to visit the orphans (they are such characters), but It was time to meet up with Jan and go on rounds.

Jan needed to go and help rescue a crow that had fallen out of a tree and had wicked mites. Interestingly enough (particularily if you have my interest in the world of cycling) the rescuer was no one other than American Tour De France cyclist, Jock Boyer! (Jock was the first American to participate in the tour; it’s a big deal) I had to work really hard not to act like a stuperfan.

The Pied Crow, or T-shirt crow as Stephen calls them, is the local super intelligent bird. Jock has drooled over the idea of domesticating one, so he really wants to do everything he can to help it out. Jan and the vets here at MGVP are dedicated to helping every animal in the gorilla ecosystem to remain healthy and that includes the local dogs, rescued crows and even stitching up fallen cyclers. Jock admits to having a few scratches fixed by Jan and her crew.

Jan administered some medicine to get rid of the mites, Jock had to gently bathe the bird and force feed it a mash until it would eat regularly. The diagnosis wasn’t good, but with a little TLC there would be a chance. Jock looked sad, but promised to work hard on it. Jan finished up by checking on Jock’s dog, who is super healthy, and then took me in to town to exchange some money and drop me off to meet my personal tour guide this week, Valerie van Wassenaer.

Valerie is one of the people behind the community village I visited earlier this week. She spends a lot of time with the locals and has become a regular site at the market. We are the minority here and a source of great amusement. I focused on getting lots of video for the film so unfortunately there are no pictures. The market is wild though, huge open air mazes full of every odd and end you could think of. A wild extravaganza of smells, colourful fabrics and exotic foods.

Ok, one more gorilla...

I will try to get a shot or two of it before I leave, just so you get a sense.

Tomorrow we head out on our second Gorilla trek. I am very privileged to do what I have done this week. Most people will never get a chance to do a gorilla trek, for some it is a chance in a lifetime, for me, this will be my fourth time. I am honored to have this chance and do not take it lightly. I can’t wait to tell you how that goes.

Africa continues to amaze.





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