Brian Fisher: Academy Ant Expert

Deep within the heart of Africa, Academy ant expert Brian Fisher is leading a team of biologists, searching for everything from mites to monkeys. The numbers and types of species the team finds will ultimately help create sound conservation strategies for this little-studied region.

Part of the Congolian Lowland Forest, the Dzanga-Sangha reserve is dense jungle on the southwestern-most nub of the Central African Republic. It's home to forest elephants, leopards, and western lowland gorillas, in addition to hundreds of birds and countless insects.

Collecting here has been trying at times. Parasitic flies have penetrated the scientists' tents, their maggot-like larvae biting the scientists. At 2:30 one morning, driver ants used their sharp mandibles to eat through one researcher's tent, biting him awake.

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elephant
Forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis)
Photo: Lee Poston, WWF

 

Brian Fisher
Brian Fisher preparing to collect ants with Winkler extractor traps in background.
Photo: Lee Poston, WWF

Despite such annoyances, the team, which includes experts of everything from mammals to amphibians, has already had tremendous success. In six days, they've collected 14 species of frogs, hundreds of insects, and several species of tree snakes, scorpions, and bats.

One night, while exploring a swamp and river, Fisher says it was "like a museum display full of tree frogs, large bats, and big spiders coming down to eat the frogs." Gorillas called in the distance as small brown antelope disappeared into the brush. "It doesn't get any better for a biologist," Fisher says. "This is why we put up with all of the discomfort--for moments like this."

Sunset and gorilla
river
Sunset, Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), river. All Photos: Lee Poston, WWF