These walkways were elevated about 15 foot above the forest floor. This gives you an opportunity to see the resident birds and monkeys. On several occasions I just stopped on my way to my room or back to the lounge area just to listen and take in all the sounds and the sense of being immersed in the canopy.
Several members of the Lango community came out to greet us. These nimble Guereza Colobus monkeys managed their way through the trees with breathtaking ease, stopping to pick edible leaves and ripe fruit. The forest is bountiful for these vegans. The Guereza Colobus monkeys were as interested in us as we were in them. My friend Ann contorting herself on the shoe drying rack to get the shot. After a walking session in the bai we took off our shoes and socks and left them to dry of the rack ready for the next walk in the bai.
After lunch we sat for a while chilling on the deck just gazing out over the bai and watching the world go by. This lone female bushbuck was quietly grazing on this side of the the Lango river when something spooked her and she skipped across the river and disappeared into the bushes on the far side. I took this next image to illustrate the height of the trees in the forest relative to a forest buffalo bull grazing in the bai opening. A view of Lango camp from the middle of the bai. The camp has been carefully built so as not to protrude into the bai.
Our group walking in the bai. Interestingly, if you ventured off these pathways you stepped into very soft bog like conditions.
The open bai is an swampy forest clearing which provides not only a gathering ground for animals and birds alike but also provides some important nutritional ingredients for animals and birds. I was very interested in seeing flocks of grey parrots and green pigeons which are a feature of the Lango bai.
We were not fortunate enough to see these large flocks of grey parrots land in the bai. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to see this flock of around wild grey parrots doing what they are supposed to do in the wild.
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I will never be able to look at a pet grey parrot the same way again. Only once we were parked in the make-shift hide waiting for the grey parrots to land did Daniella start telling us of the plight of the grey parrots in the Congo Basin. Even more disturbing is that only a small fraction of those young grey parrots harvested from their nests survive. This practice started aggressively in the s. The population collapsed as a result. The flocks of a thousand or so grey parrots that you can see flying wild in Odzala today is less than a tenth of what was seen 20 to 30 years ago.
While we only got to see the historically small flocks of grey parrots from a distance, our patience in the hide was rewarded and we were privileged to see a large flock of green pigeons. They landed in the bai to feed on the mineral rich soil for nutrients certain times of the year. This behaviour is called geophagy. Geophagy has been found in a number of bird species, but its adaptive functions remain much debated. Avian species showing geophagy can be broadly divided into those feeding on grit and those feeding on clay.
There are two main hypotheses as to why birds practice geophagy — the intentional consumption of soil. The first is that clay is a natural detox treatment. Fruit eating birds such as parrots and green pigeons regularly eat seeds and unripe fruits containing alkaloids and other toxins which make the seeds and fruits bitter and even lethal. When food is limited and safer plants are in short supply, clay could help birds eat the more toxic plants that remain. Parrot and pigeon geophagy is amply evident in moist tropical forests areas where sodium is flushed from the ecosystem, but retained in hard clay.
Sodium is needed for nerve function and muscle contraction. To see this enormous flock of green pigeons is spellbinding. When not breeding, African green pigeons gather in flocks referred to a passel of pigeons. While the male and female of many bird species look different, both sexes of the African green pigeon wear the same colourful feathers.
The juvenile birds are somewhat duller without the lilac carpal patches. I only really began to understand why bais and wetlands are so important after watching a video by ornithologist Dr Steve Boyes and his research team who went in search of the source and course of the water that flows into Okavango delta to better understand its sustainability. Only then did I realise the vital role these wetland areas play in the ecosystem. They control floods and act as sponges allowing water to flow consistently long after the rain has stopped.
They form a crucial component of the flow control and water purification of the hydrological system of water catchment areas. These bais also provide an opening in the thick rainforest for animals and birds to gather. In this regard, the forest elephants have a vital role to play. These are paths ways created over hundreds of years. The sand under foot is firm, albeit underwater. If you were to step a metre to one side you would probably sink down to your knees or even deeper in bog like conditions.
Along the rivers and in the bai openings you will frequently see Palm-nut vultures.source url
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They have distinctive colouring and red facial skin quite unlike an African Fish eagle. They are large vulturine raptors but what makes them unusual for birds of prey is they feed mainly on the fleshy fruit-husks of the oil-palm and on the palm-fruits.
The fresh water is continually draining from the bai via the many rivulets and streams. The water in these streams is crystal clear. Another first for me was seeing a small herd of forest buffalo which ventured out onto the bai to graze on the grasses in the late afternoon. The African forest buffalo is the smallest subspecies of the African buffalo.
Although related to the Cape buffalo, West African savanna buffalo and Central African savanna buffalo, it is much smaller. The African forest buffalo is distinguished from the other subspecies by its reddish brown hide that is darker in the facial area. The shape and size of their horns are more like water buffalo that African buffalo and they have glamorous ear tuffs.
The forest buffaloes rarely venture from the forest into the open areas but they do so to graze on the grasses and sedges in the bai. They also like to wallow in the waterways. At the end of our first day at Lango camp we were walking back to the wooden jetty which leads via a wooden walk way back to the camp. We had been watching the forest buffalo herd but we noticed they were progressively wandering in our direction.
If these were African buffalo we would have got out of there quickly. The light was fading so we decided to sit waist deep in the water next to the jetty and see what the buffaloes did.
The next image was of the matriarch who was very inquisitive. She brought the whole herd up to within 10 metres of us. We were very still and quiet and they seemed not to be able to figure out what we were. At no time did any of the forest buffalo show any aggression towards us. After a short while the buffaloes lost interest in us and wandered passed us upstream. During this encounter in the fading light with hot humid temperatures, it was if time stood still. It was a remarkable experience and one which I will never forget. The more you get to understand the ecology and dynamics of these bais the more fascinating they become.
They are a gathering place, a source of vital nutrients and a crucial hydrological feature of the ecology of the rainforest. Best of all they provide us humans get an opportunity to see the rare and unusual wildlife which is normally hidden in the rainforest. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. The first camp we visited in Odzala was Ngaga Camp which is located just outside the park boundary in the Ndzehe concession.
The camp overlooks an open glade of marantacae within the primary forest above a forest stream.
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Ngaga is situated within the overlapping home ranges of several groups of western lowland gorillas, two of which are habituated. There are two gorilla species, the Eastern and the Western. There are four gorilla subspecies. The size and colouring of the two species is slightly different.
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The western lowland species appears slightly smaller but may be because the eastern species has much longer hair to keep warm at the higher altitudes. The western gorilla subspecies is also a brownish-gray, while eastern gorilla subspecies tend to be blacker. The two species live in Central Africa, separated by a vast swathe of rainforest. The western lowland gorillas are more common than their relatives, the mountain gorillas.