A trip to Vera Plaine to place a camera trap was Paul’s idea. He had happened across an animal den in the forest in the week previous, and, not knowing what creature was occupying, thought a camera monitoring the entrance might settle the mystery.
Paul, with daughters Eline and Amber, and myself got an early start on December 31st, arriving shortly after 9am. The forest was buzzing with insects. An immense Nephila spider hung in a web alongside the trail into the forest.
After setting the camera to monitor the mystery den, we wandered a trail for an hour before returning to savanna to look for butterflies.
Good spotting by Eline and Amber discovered a tiny scorpion in the leaf litter beneath our feet, along with various beetles, crickets and grasshoppers hidden in the vegetation. Six hours after we left the forest, a lone chimpanzee would record as it passed the camera, moving through the forest we explored earlier in the day.
Later that night, and throughout the two weeks of camera activity, a Giant pouched rat with family solved the den mystery. An impressive rat, this one looked to be at least a third of a meter in length with a long tail adding another third-meter. The “pouch” refers to large cheek pouches used to carry food to their dens for storage. It was most active in the dark of night, from 2am to 5am, scuttling about in the surrounding forest understory, reshaping its burrow, cleaning itself. It appeared to have a mate and possibly one or two smaller pups scampering in and out of the burrow.
A brush-tailed porcupine wandered through, 4:40am, early in the morning of January 2nd. Later in the week, the rat darted quickly into its burrow as three elephants wandered through shortly before 11pm. A little Blue duiker passed by on a sunny morning. A solitary chimpanzee or gorilla ambled past, 7:35am on the morning of the 8th, hard to identify through a rain-spattered lens.
Most impressive was a band of 22 gorillas that recorded on the camera in the late afternoon of the 5th of January. It appeared two silverbacks were in the group, and at least 4 babies riding mother’s shoulders.