Today I had the good fortune to ride along on a mock wildlife count with APW’s game scouts. Two game scouts from WCS are visiting Noloholo for a couple of days and wanted to see APW’s protocol for wildlife counts, hence the unplanned transect survey this morning. We met at 6:00 and headed out about 6:15. It was still dark, but daylight started to filter through the clouds shortly. It was cold this morning – I definitely needed the sweatshirt and windbreaker I was wearing. (I know, I know – you’re thinking “Cold? In Africa? At the Equator? Can’t be! – But yet, it is chilly here at times. We are about 3000 feet above sea level and being just south of the equator, it is technically winter here. It’s not like winter in New York of course, but still a bit brisk some days.) The game scouts survey four transects – two north of Loibor Siret and two south. They typically do two transects per day, either the north ones or the south ones. In this area, wildlife movement is predominately east-west so they are unlikely to double count over the two days if they split the survey north-south. Today, we headed north. We saw punda milia (zebra), impala (swala pala), digidigi (dik-dik), kongoni (hartebeest), pofu (eland) and my personal favorite, twiga (giraffe). One giraffe was actually blocking the road for a bit, so we got a very close look at it.
After a while, the scouts asked Paolo (the driver) to stop in a thicket of brush surrounding a baobob tree. Baobob trees are exceptionally cool. They are like the giant sequoias of Africa and can be several thousands of years old. The scouts gathered some sticks, which I momentarily thought was odd until I realized that this particular baobob tree is fruiting. They tossed the sticks into the branches in the hope of knocking down some of the fruit. They were successful and there was enough fruit to go around. They first handed me a whole one. They are oval shaped, hard, and fuzzy – a bit like a peach, but fuzzier. One of the scouts then broke another one completely in half by hand, which was very impressive. The inside was nothing like what I expected. The consistency can only be described as akin to space ice cream – hard, but light and airy and melting quickly in my mouth. The taste was similar to a SweetTart, just not quite as intense and really without flavor, just sweet and tart taste. Perhaps this fruit was the inspiration for the famous SweetTart candies we know so well in the US!