Glimpse into the secretive world of the Annamites

One of my favorite aspects of camera trapping is that you can get a snapshot of the complete mammalian community in an area: a camera trap doesn’t discriminate between species, but snaps a photo of anything warm-blooded that happens to move in front of the sensor, be it a rare species like Saola or striped rabbit Read more…

The last best hope for Owston’s civet

The jungles of the central Annamites are renowned for their incredible small carnivore diversity: the number of sharp-toothed furry critters roaming these forests should send a shiver of fear down the back of anything rabbit-sized or smaller: and a shiver of pleasure to any tropical biologist who happens to find himself in this corner of Southeast Asia. Read more…

With thanks to Mr. Nabokov

When I recall my time in Xe Sap, I am, to steal a phrase from Vladimir Nabokov, “thinking of aurochs and angels.” It’s a bittersweet mixture. The aurochs, those extinct animals that live now only as ghosts of the past, haunt the region. Gone are the days when Sahib Stripes, the mighty tiger, roamed these jungles: he is now a black and burnished orange memory. Read more…

Return to Ban Pa Le

The third day we arrived at Ban Pale. The headman, Mr. Bun Ma, greeted me as though I were a long-lost friend returning from the edge of the world. And indeed, given the isolation of the village, our travels to the Vietnamese border and back might have been just that. We settled into the headman’s hut, sprawled out on the wooden floor, and fell asleep. Read more…

Return to the mining camp

We walked along the sun-scorched road: through a shimmering haze the path appeared as a solid gold-tinted river of baked clay that flowed through the undulating hillside as far as the eye could see. We were hot and tired. My legs ached. There was a reason, I reflected, why the forests of Xe Sap still had animals in a region where wildlife trade and poaching are rampant: it was hell to get to. Read more…

Nostalgia

Our last full day in Xe Sap came sooner than I had expected: On other surveys I felt the weight of the days and was more and more ready to head home as the weeks wore by. But Xe Sap gave me an energy, a vitality, that pushed me on. Perhaps it was the anticipation that this area, Read more…

Clues

I’ve always believed that any tropical biologist worth his salt is at heart a detective. The animals of the rainforest have perfected the art of hiding: millions of years of evolution, which includes hundreds of years of being hunted by bipedal primates, have given many jungle animals the ability to melt into the foliage: to disappear. Read more…