Chitengo Camp: First Impressions

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Chitengo Camp

I arrived in Gorongosa National Park’s Chitengo Camp late Tuesday night. Around me pulsed the calls of thousands of crickets and katydids that I did not recognize. After getting my luggage put away and having a quick dinner at the restaurant here (which is very nice, I might add), I was out patrolling the grounds. Immediately I started seeing some awesome stuff. I found several grasshoppers which were familiar to me from my work on this group on dead specimens. Seeing them alive and in their natural habitats, they looked familiar, but also not. The lights around the camp swarmed with insects of all sorts; an occasional large katydid or grasshopper, small crickets jumping and flying everywhere, colorful assassin bugs and rhyparochromids scuttling under the leaves. Scores of the big-headed ant, Pheidole megacephala, were ever-present, ready to attack and take away any insect that paused too long. It was heaven.

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One of my first Gorongosa katydids, a beautiful male Plangia compressa.

The interesting thing about Gorongosa in July and August (which is their dry season) is that the abundance of many insects is not extremely high, but the diversity is. For example, I found a total of 5 individual katydids the other night, all very widely spaced around the camp, and each one was a different species. In comparison, Piotr has told me that in the wet season (January/February is the peak) you cannot even sit at the restaurant, because there are just clouds of giant preying mantids and katydids everywhere. Problem then is that most of the roads are flooded and you are basically trapped in Chitengo. Piotr arrived on Thursday morning from a collecting trip on Mt. Gorongosa, and I had dinner with him and several of the other researchers after we tried to locate a bat hawk in Chitengo (a very interesting bird of prey that only hunts bats for about 30 minutes every dusk) Learned quite a bit about all sorts of things. You cannot exit the camp unless you are on a safari or with someone affiliated with the park, because while the camp is fully fenced off, the rest of the park is not as safe with lions and elephants roaming the area. However, there are two gates. One is guarded and you are only allowed through with the guard’s OK. The other gate is open and you can just walk right though and go down to the river. As Piotr described it, the park has an agreement with the lions and elephants. They attack people at the first gate, and they don’t attack people at the second gate. But in all seriousness, the large mammals could be anywhere, but they usually avoid the area around the second gate because of the heavy foot traffic. These and many other interesting tidbits I have been picking up the last few days. I already have several cool stories of insects to post about, but that will have to be another day. I also have tons of photos and I will share a few below.

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The first grasshopper I found in Gorongosa was this lovely female Metaxymecus gracillipes, a species with which I am very familiar from specimens.

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This odd little bug is a water measurer (Hydrometridae). As with many insects here, this one has only been identified to family. A species ID is not an easy process for most of these smaller bugs.

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Several species of larger mammals are common around the camp. These warthogs do not seem to mind people at all.

Tonight we are going collecting outside of the camp, at the “lion house”. Should be interesting…

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One thought on “Chitengo Camp: First Impressions

  1. Pingback: Gorongosa: An Irruption of Metaxymecus | The Incorrigible Entomologist

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