GVI recently had a few special guests stay with us at our Shimoni base for a few days. We had the privelege of working with two bush baby researchers, (New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology) and a member of the National Council allowing us to learn more about these tiny primates but also to share our local knowledge and findings with them. Bush babies (Otolemur garnettii) are regularly seen in Shimoni and are a familiar background noise when going to sleep at night. Not one of us refused when an offer came to help the researchers check their traps at 04:30 one morning!
The traps are small wire cages baited with palm wine, an intoxicating product of the phoenix palm. It was found that some animals were continually being recaptured, finding the wine appealing; the first bush baby we saw (the greater galago) was a recapture and did appear a bit “zonked”. There were two greater galagos that morning. Unfortunately, in an attempt to free themselves, animals will leap at the wire mesh, resulting in wounds to their heads and noses. If this happened, iodine was carefully applied to ensure safe healing. Before release the primate toes and nails were pointed out, as well as the grooming claw.
The real target was the dwarf galago (also incorrectly known as the small-eared or lesser galago). The next trap held this species (there was an audible gasp from us at its diminutive size) which meant that not only could the data be collected, but it would be easier to handle, thick gloves being particularly essential for protection from the greater’s teeth and claws.
A small clipping was taken from the ear, providing a tissue sample for DNA analysis, the animal was weighed and measured, and photographed. It was released as soon as possible, scampering up the nearest tree. The DNA from all the captures will be used to establish intra-species relationships in terms of familial connections and sub-species. It is hoped that the research results will be published next year.
This was a great opportunity for volunteers to get close to one of Shimoni Forest’s diverse but sometimes elusive wildlife.
Mary Wood, volunteer for GVI-Kenya.