It’s been a mentally tough week here in Chitwan. The course participants have had four intense days learning statistics, the basics of R (a statistical analysis tool) and QGIS (a mapping tool). These tools will be really useful for the participants, all of whom are working on important conservation projects in their respective countries, but it’s certainly got the grey matter working!
In spite of being heavily lectured based, the week has been permeated by some exciting animal encounters. Much to the delight of Dusan (a course participant from Croatia who’s working on the olm but who also has extensive experience working with snakes), one of the local villages found a python and it was brought to the NTNC Biodiversity Conservation Centre (where the course is taking place) to be released.
The technicians at NTNC have developed strong links with the local communities and so community members know to call someone at NTNC when they find a snake rather than killing it. After (carefully!) measuring the snake and noting down its vital statistics, Dusan let the snake go in the forest that neighbours the Centre. The next day, another python was brought and there was even talk of there being a king cobra in the vicinity…
We also had a run in with a cloud (I’ve just looked it up and apparently this is the appropriate collective noun!) of bats. Earlier in the week, Jeff (one of the EDGE Conservation Biologists) was explaining the theory of mist netting and using bat detectors. As Jeff reached the end of his explanation and started to search for some bats to demonstrate the theory on, I happened to return to my room and find it FULL of bats!!! Some might say I’d taken my role co-ordinating the logistics of the course too far at this point! (I’m pleased to report that, after the door was propped open for a while, all bats made a safe exit into the night and my room no longer resembles that of Dracula’s!)
In the late afternoons we’ve being doing some recces for the small mammal surveys that we’ll be doing next week. We’ve brought 30 Sherman traps with us and (with the added help of some peanut butter as bait) we’ll be using them carry out some mark-recapture surveying. This evening, I helped a team of participants set the traps as dusk fell and first thing tomorrow we’ll go out and check what’s been caught.
And there’s news from the camera traps… tigers have been photographed! But more on that later.