Sunday, 9 December 2012

A day in the life of Alpha 4

Hello and welcome to Coupe 1, in the Pitas forestry reserve.

We all get up by 7am and then the radio team reports into Fieldbase at 7.10am. Alas, our jungle camp doesn't provide any open space to get enough signal on the radio and so the radio team have to tramp down 150 steps to the clearing at the bottom of the hill....and then back up 150 steps for a well-earned breakfast... porridge, of course!
The first five days of our time here were spent making sure there was somewhere dry to sleep and ensuring our food was safe from ants, the jungle rats and the wet. Each dry morning saw a yet more ingenious way of arranging the tarps to keep the rain out, but at last all the hammocks were pretty much dry pretty much all of the time. We then settled into the survey routine.
At 8am the morning mammal trapping team leave to check the 34 traps. This involves about a mile's round trip, but the steep climb up and back down on a slippery jungle day means the process takes an hour and a half. Most days we return with some kind of shrew or rat, which we have transferred from the trap to a canvas bag to bring back to camp.

 We also check the mist nets that we've set the night before to see if any birds have been caught in them for us to identify.

The remainder of Alpha 4 will have been working on building the steps or improving the camp, and most of them will take a break to see what has been caught.

Rose, the local conservation expert from AFC with whom we are working, supervises the chloroforming of the little beasts and we then weigh and measure their sleeping bodies and take pictures to ensure we correctly identify them for the survey.

At midday we squeeze all 16 of us around the camp table on benches made from branches cut from the forest and enjoy our crackers, sardines and chocolate spread, often all in the same mouthful. This is usually followed by tinned fruit and pancakes for pudding if we're lucky!
Siesta time after lunch and then it's time to continue work on the grand staircase. Wood has to be cut from the forest to make edges for the steps and then pegs have to be added to hold it in place.

Then at 4pm the afternoon team set off to check the traps and the survey process is repeated. 6pm is Longs O'Clock and means that supper is on its way. There is great innovation by the cooking teams to provide us with soups and casseroles of all descriptions...and best of all, from time to time, doughnuts!

At 7pm the day leader for the following day briefs the team on what the next day will bring and then we settle down for the serious business of the day - a game of Mafia!

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