I arrived here
last Saturday at the Ipululu Primate Conservation Center deep in
the heart of the dark, tree-infested, and nearly impenetrable Ugugwu
Forest of Tanzania, and I've been hard at work writing my Report
from the Field ever since. As usual, getting here was not
the simple matter that I had been led to believe it would be. For
one thing, I was forced to use my old car again because NO ONE was
willing to buy it from me, and for another thing, it broke down
again! They don't have too many garages in the Ugugwu Forest, so
I had to hire a pair of bullocks to pull me, my car and my suitcases
the rest of the way to Ipululu. That took a week. Do you know what
it's like to be behind a pair of bullocks for a week? HAVE YOU GOT
ANY IDEA OF WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE BEHIND A PAIR OF BULLOCKS FOR A
Anyway, I finally got to Ipululu
and introduced myself to Dr. Watanabe Kibombo, who is Professor
Emeritas at Antananarivo University and resident director here at
the Center. Unfortunately, through NO FAULT OF MINE, it seems I
had arrived at a rather bad moment. The Professor had just broken
a large ceramic display model of a toilet claw he had been showing
to a friend, and its shattered shards lay about the room like confetti.
He was naturally quite despondent about it, and even though it was
only 6 o'clock, he went right to bed without further conversation.
I was left to put the bullocks away by myself, haul my suitcases
into the guest hut by myself, and rig my own mosquito net, something
I have not often had to do. A packet of stale Jujube crackers and
a box of raisinettes took the edge off my hunger, and as it grew
steadily darker and darker, I fell asleep listening to the sounds
of chirping rubberneck guenons in the trees behind the Center.
The next day he recovered somewhat
and took me out to the forest to see some toilet claw marks. He
showed me a tiny scrape which he said had been left by a yellow-bellied
galago, and several faint indentations which he identified as characteristic
of the lesser Ugugwu potto. Then it was back to camp to inspect
his prize collection of toilet claw fossils. That night he grew
morose again, one moment ranting about the toilet claw model he
had broken, the next sulking moodily. Frankly, he was no fun to
be with. He refused to say anything about his theory that the toiet
claw is the key to primate evolution, and I was not sorry to be
leaving early the next morning in a camp jeep under my normal deadline
to post my Report.
That's about it for this issue.
I think it boils down to this. If you want to know about toilet
claws, Kibombo's your man. But if you want a friend, forget it!
Next time, I plan to break in to Monkey Island Prison in South Africa
to interview the notorious and evil-looking Commandant Dr. Oudtshoorn
Grootegraaf. So until then, I'll just say So long.