February in Odzala sees the transition period from the short dry season to the short rainy season. Most of the wildlife is slowly coming back towards the bais and rivers after having migrated into the heart of the terra-firma forest looking for some of their favoured fruits – for example, the two that are commonly called wild mango – Irvingia gabonensis and Pandaoleosa. The overcast weather accompanied by misty, cool mornings and evenings is slowly fading away and the level of humidity is rising. Heavy showers towards the end of the month settled the obvious presence of dust in the air.
Lango Camp, Odzala-Kokoua National Park
We experienced interesting sightings of spotted hyaena on a buffalo carcass twice this month. Since lions disappeared from Odzala in the early 1990s, spotted hyaena are on top of the food chain. Forest buffalo are the main prey of these opportunistic hunters – hyaena cover long distances throughout the night in search of wounded or unhealthy individuals. Twenty or more hyaena feeding on a forest buffalo can sometimes be seen in swampy marsh habitat, with only their necks and heads sticking out of the mud.
A great surprise was seeing a small herd of bongo during breakfast one morning, just before going out on activity. The herd was spotted north-east of the Lango Bai crossing in between two forest patches. The Lango stream is fairly low at the moment which has allowed us to reach places that are inaccessible during the wet season. During such an expedition, we had an incredible up-close encounter with a solitary bongo walking 30 metres right in front of us without him noticing our presence – unique experience!
Other mammals have been hard to observe, although prominent tracks and signs indicates their return in and around Lango Bai.
Ngaga Camp, Ndzehi Concession
On average, the gorilla sightings have been good although challenging for one who is unfit as lately, the gorillas have been found far from camp. To reach the gorillas involved some long hours of walking this month, as Jupiter and Neptuno are at the moment present in areas where there is a concentration of various fruiting trees – and that’s a fair distance! As we approach the gorillas, a lot of patience is required as we always try to get the most out of every experience and mostly our aim is to observe the gorillas in their natural environment without disturbing them.
Many chimpanzees have been heard fairly close to Ngaga Camp, increasing the opportunity of us getting a glimpse of those great apes while gorilla tracking or on our forest walks.
Sightings of the diurnal primates have been interesting, with moustached and putty-nosed monkey being curious enough to come and investigate human activity near the rooms. The night walks were very productive with sightings of the rare central potto, Lord Derby’s anomalure and many galagos.
February has been good especially for the birds of prey with sightings of black-shouldered kite, yellow-billed kite, long-tailed hawk, African harrier hawk, long-crested eagle, dark-chanting goshawk, red-chested goshawk, Cassin’s hawk-eagle, black sparrowhawk, bat hawk, and the stunning African crowned eagle.