Today was short because I didn’t want to take any chances with Herve. I have been pumping him full of salt and sugar for the past 36 hours and he has gone from looking like death warmed over to just about his old self. It is amazing how dehydration can kill you real fast if you don’t get the electrolytes back in the system.
Our target today was yesterday’s target, so we lost a day with Herve down. It is the jumping off point for the Vovodo.
Not too far from camp we saw a nice group of red river hogs in the forest along the Chinko. A ways on we saw old roan antelope dung like yesterday’s, then some fresh waterbuck tracks. So this is the first confirmed sighting of a plains antelope.
Then we ran into fresh human foot tracks and fresh burro dung. We heard an AK round yesterday across the river, so this is confirmation of Sudanese poachers in our midst.
We headed for the Chinko at about 11h00, it was already real hot. The bank had a huge rut that could have only been created by herds of elephants, now just a distant memory.
I went fishing, and after about 10 minutes of casting with my six-weight, caught some big minnows and then I hooked a huge catfish. He was way too big for my #6 rod; a great fight ensued; busted the tip of the rod after about 5 minutes. No more fly fishing, damn. Herve caught a smaller catfish later in the day, so we had fish to eat.
A group of baboons came in to watch me fish. The big male climbed a tree about 20 yards from me, barking. Then about 10 more parked themselves here and there for a look at this curious human whipping this line back and forth. So they are not yet hunted here.
Took a walk this evening to a little grassy plain upriver. There was what looked like an old saline pit dug by elephants. This spot was in the old Haut Chinko Safaris concession. I could imagine the guys showing up here in their truck back in the 1970s.
Tons of Wildlife Passing Each Day
This little plain would have had 20 or so Buffon’s kob, about the same number of waterbuck, and maybe some hartebeest permanently, with tons of other wildlife passing each day.
What I saw today was more fresh burro dung and some old cow paddies and cattle paths. How quickly we can forget that 40 years ago this river valley had thousands of elephants forming the landscape, and tens of thousands of antelope. Cherry had the same experience on the Upper Kotto. If there is no protection in this area, these poachers will kill everything, including the baboons; harum or not.
“This is why the Chinko Project is essential. It is the last chance for all the species here.”
This is why the Chinko Project is essential. It is the last chance for all the species here. There are even a handful of elephants left, the last of the lions and a viable population of Derby Eland. Everyone needs to join in this effort.
We are changing our plans. Water levels are real low in the Chinko and I am afraid the water on the Vovodo will peter out long before we get close to the border. We will stick to the Chinko and get as far as we can.
There is no sign of rain here. If we get none we may only get another 50 km or so upstream. It is also real hot, so we are going to break camp at 05h00 and rest at midday, then do a few more hours in the afternoon.
Africa explorer-conservationist J. Michael Fay is in the Central African Republic, completing an expedition he started in 2014, retracing as best he can the footsteps of the 19th Century American Game Hunter-Explorer William Stamps Cherry. Fay, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and recipient of numerous National Geographic Society grants, has also worked for decades for the Wildlife Conservation Society. His transects through some of Africa’s most remote and inaccessible wildernesses (among them the National Geographic-sponsored Megatransect and Meglaflyover) rank among the most significant in the history of exploration of the continent. You can read all his dispatches at Expedition Through the Heart of Africa.