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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

From school house to bamboo classroom

The Rakhine Yoma Elephant Sanctuary camera trapping class -- UMA is standing to my right

The training course commenced in the school house with my charming old friend UMA at the helm.

Opening ceremonies are normally a bit drawn out over there, perhaps a vestige of colonial protocol.

Typically, a charming lady, fetchingly attired in form-fitting longyi carries on at the podium with various formalities.

Finally she smiles, and . . .

"I hereby declare that the blah-blah-blah training course is officially open".

Someone strikes the sacred GONGGGGG, and the smiling class applauds, knowing that the time has come for repast and refreshment.

But not this time.

UMA said a few words, introduced yours truly, the generator fired up, and Khaing Khaing Swe switched on the LCD projector for my canned lectures.

The venue -- 24-mile Chin Village.  School house is the long building in the distance 

In their spanking new Friends of Wildlife T-shirts, the class sat on their diminutive stools, listened attentively and took notes.

Lecture following opening ceremony.

Meanwhile the cooks plucked and butchered our lunch behind the building.

Meal preparation during the lecture

I rambled for a half hour about elephant survey methods, making the point that images of elephants provide more information than monthly counts of dung balls along transects in the forest.

UMA's translations I noticed were not only more animated then mine, but decidedly more prolix.

This means one of two things.

Your translator is either terribly enthusiastic or terribly imaginative.

In this case I knew it was the former.

The morning wore on and the smell of steamed rice and chicken curry wafted past the heads of children peeking through the door.

 ("Never worry, chicken curry").

"Shall we break?"

"As you like," grinned UMA.

The class took their places on their diminutive stools.

A meal is always part of the opening ceremony

After lunch another illustrated lecture -- this one about making camera trap sets, pre-visualizing pictures, anticipating animal movement, and so on.

They were still focussed, still taking notes in Burmese and English.

This enduring patience always amazes me.

Then we discussed camera protection against elephants.

I asked if they could make an elephant deterrent out of bamboo and punji sticks -- an indigenous version of my angle iron and nail camera protectors.

They could, but we decided to go with metal.

UMA translates in the bamboo hut.

Finally we passed out the 6 camera traps and went through the menus until each of the teams had set the date and time, and standardized the other settings.

Then we adjourned to the bamboo hut up the hill.

Kids still have to go to school, so the hut was our Hdq for the rest of the 6 day course.

Two men hauled the generator up the road, but for some reason generator and location didn't agree.

We reverted to using the 3 laptops, a suitable arrangement.

That afternoon the class disappeared into the hills to set their first camera traps.

The course was off and running.


JK said...

Really enjoying these Burma posts Codger. Keep them coming.

BLD in MT said...

How interesting!

Shervin Hess et al said...

I need to take this class