So we are back on Principe, Sao Tome’s older (31 million years) but smaller brother. It is as idyllic and wild as we remember. It is also very hot and humid. Just Tom, Jim and me; Roberta is still working on our educational proposal back on Sao Tome. This appears to include lunches at the Brazilian Embassy, but we are not too jealous.. great things are being accomplished.
Jim is of course sampling mosses, liverworts and allies at his usual intense pace.
SE end of Principe. RCD Phot. GG IV
Yesterday, we were about 2/3rds down the East coast of the island (you would not believe the “road”) near some remarkable granitic formations that someone coined the “Mayan Ruins” during GG III. They of course nothing of the sort, but what they are is a great site for Jim’s mosses and other critters. Tom got a bunch of neat ferns and several rare acanths (his group) in flower and tissue for DNA.
Recall that I have several “questing beasts” here. So far, the only success I have had is with millipedes for Dr. Shelley in North Carolina. I already have good samples from both islands, from various elevations. Like home, they are pretty common, but here on the islands they are unstudied. I have turned over a million logs (it seems), but still no Principe caecilian like the fabulous Cobra bobo of Sao Tome. The locals, including the irrepressible Ramos (see earlier blog: “We Find Jita”), insist that it is here. But I have the sinking suspicion that they are confusing it with the endemic, spectacular Principe endemic, Typhlops elegans. See for yourself:
Sao Tome caecilian,” Cobra bobo’. Weckerphoto GG III”
Principe golden burrowing snake. Typhlops elegans Weckerphoto GG III
As for the shrew, two days ago we went back to the same Principe villagewhere we failed to catch one in GG III. I hate to admit it, but Ramos, Wes, Jo and I were all afraid to pick the thing up – they bite like hell and at the time, we did not know that the supposed Sao Tome endemic, C. thomensis, had been rediscovered.
Jim, Tom, Ramos and I actually turned over the exact same piece of metal sheeting as GG III. No shrew, but the locals all recognize the picture I brought and are on the look-out (incentive has been provided!). As for the Sao Tome animal, I can only hope that Ricardo Lima and Maryana Carvalho are successful in getting another, while we are over here.
The reason I have time to write this blog is because instead of joining Jim, Tom and Ramos in the bush, I spent the entire morning in the town of Santo Antonio at a “conference.” What came as a surprise is that I turned out to actually be the conference! The Governor of Principe (here he is called the Presidente- Principe is semi-autonomous), is Tose Cassandra, whom I have met before. Earlier on Sao Tome, he asked if I would give a talk on our work while on Principe. I assumed this would be my usual powerpoint celebrating the endemic critters here, the uniqueness of the islands, etc. But somehow this sort of “morphed.” Early this morning, I was picked up by presidential driver and transferred from our lodge to the State House for a rather formal meeting with Pres. Cassandra; from thence I was whisked to a packed (air-conditioned!) hall where a “conference on biodiversity” was to be held. Turns out that was me. In earlier days, I might have freaked out, but some of the guys here at the lodge sort of hinted in might be more than just a slideshow, and so it was. The President sat on my left, a translator on my right (Ramos’s brother!), and we used my projector (thanks, Tosh Chiang, of CAS!) The whole thing went for a couple of hours including a Q & A, and ended in a TV interview (we’re talkin’ local, here). The images below are some that I showed and represent a way of informing the citizens of how special the islands are.
ONLY ON PRINCIPE!!
ONLY ON SAO TOME!!
ONLY ON OUR ISLANDS!!
Here’s the parting shot:
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the G. Lindsay Field Research Fund, Hagey Research Venture Fund of the California Academy of Sciences, the Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD) and Africa’s Eden for logistics, ground transportation and lodging, STePUP of Sao Tome http://www.stepup.st/, Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, and Victor Bomfim, Salvador Sousa Pontes and Danilo Barbero of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for permission to export specimens for study, the continued support of Bastien Loloumb of Monte Pico and Faustino Oliviera, Director of the botanical garden at Bom Sucesso. Special thanks for the generosity of private individuals, George G. Breed, Gerry F. Ohrstrom, Timothy M. Muller, Mrs. W. H. V. Brooke, Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murakami, Hon. Richard C. Livermore, Prof. & Mrs. Evan C. Evans III and Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Taylor for helping make these expeditions possible. Our work can be supported by donations to the California Academy of Sciences Gulf of Guinea Fund.