Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Don’t Look Back And Panga!

It was early on Wednesday morning but we were up and filled with excitement. For our group, today was the day we go ‘Pangaing’. Panga is the Kiswahili word for Machete. So essentially we were going to re-hack an overgrown transect in the forest so we can complete canopy and primate behaviour surveys on the negative sections of Transect 3 (T3). There are many good reasons for having transects or paths, such as the increase in data capture, the opportunity to see and observe more of the beautiful Shimoni forest and the furthering of GVI’s research goals within the community and with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). In my opinion however I think one of my favourite reasons we have them is simply for the fun of cutting them! I’m not saying it’s an easy days’ work in the forest, but it does make you smile and guarantee a good nights’ sleep.

-- 'Pangaing' a pathway - to facilitate the primate and forest research --

So off we set on the 2km walk into Shimoni Forest East. There’s a certain level of excitement on the walk with all 4 of us in high spirits. When we get to negative sections of T3 we have a quick water break, briefly touch on the Health and Safety issues regarding Pangaing covering the stance (so you don’t chop a limb off), watching where you are Pangaing and awareness of others around you etc and then we set to at sharpening our Pangas with a vengeance. A sharp Panga makes sooo much difference. Once they were sharp we were good to go. Chris lined up Tim in the right direction and off he dived into the forest. After a few minutes of scrambling around and shouting to get the right bearing (as all transects need to run west to east in a straight line) the Pangaing began. Tim chopping towards us, myself chopping towards him and Cindy following close behind tidying up any stray branches or vines that we missed. It had been several months and an entire rainy season since anyone had been down the negatives of T3 and let me tell you it was very VERY dense. As myself and Cindy were novices it took us a little while to get the technique down, as essentially it’s not so much about how much power and force there is behind your swing and more about the angle you chop at.

-- Me cutting the dense vegetation into a walkable path --

Once we had met up with Tim, we all turned to tidying the cut path, then it was someone else’s turn to dive into the forest whilst Chris shouted ‘Left A Bit’, ‘Right A Bit’, ‘No You Idiot, Your Other Left!’ and then it was back to full on Panga action. Once we had cut approximately 50 or so metres we measured and tagged the transect every 10m in accordance with surveying practice. At one point we thought we had found Sasquatch and were snapping away with the camera imagining all the money the photos would make us, but apparently it was just Tim trying to get onto the easterly bearing.
-- Transect 3 after we had finished with it! --
As the day progressed and our energies flagged a little it was time to stop for lunch, today was tomato and onion sandwiches, a new one on me but surprisingly delicious. After lunch it was back out with the files to sharpen the Pangas then back into the forest and on with the chopping. Later that afternoon we began having bets on how many chops it would take to cut through certain branches, there wasn’t much science behind it but there was a drink or two placed on the outcome. Overall a great but tiring day in which we all had fun and achieved a remarkable amount. 250m may not sound like a long distance but it sure feels like one, so roll on next week when we can go back and Panga some more!