California Academy of Sciences
 
 

Off to Principé
Dispatch Number Three - April 27, 2001
Text by Fabio Penny, Computer Services

04.19.01 Thursday
07:00 Sao Tome Harbor
Our journey to Principé took 4 hours. The boat captain and first mate, Jean-Louis and Patrice respectively, guided us through to the Tinhosa Islands. These are two small rocky islands a half-hour off the coast of
Principé.

As we pulled into Tinhosa Grande (the larger of the two), we saw various species of seabirds. Roosting on the rocks were Brown Boobies (Sula leucogaster), Bridled Terns (Sterna anathetus) as well as Common Naddi (Anous stolidus). We had tuna 2 meters long driving fish towards the surface, providing a feast for Sooty Shearwaters, Storm Petrels (a small black seabird that "dances" on top of the water while searching for food) and Sandwich Terns. Often Bridled Terns land on outstretched arms of fishermen- we tried to do the same with little success.
Tenhosa Grande

Tenhosa Grande - a haven for seabirds off the coast of Principe. Photo Robert C. Drewes

We could see a storm brewing over Principé, where it downpours quite often, and headed straight towards it. The boat bounced as the waves crashed and Jean Louis bravely managed the waves. As we neared the center of the storm, we all huddled together in the covered area of the 10-meter (30-foot) boat, packed like sardines!

11:00 Principé Island Harbor- arrival
We arrive, the sea still storming, and immediately dock beside a large Gabonian fishing vessel. The sailors helped us unload our gear and soon were asking for cigarettes and other miscellany. Once our Principé logistician and ECOFAC team member Pedro Carvalho made his affiliation known, we were all set. He had arranged a bus that accommodated all ten of us and the load of scientific gear. No one knows how he was able to do this on an island with a population of only 5000 people, and soon we were headed to our rented rooms/motels.


Lunch consisted of a noodle soup to begin, then followed by 3 different type of fish. Since these islands do not have much area set aside for grazing and have plentiful fish surrounding it, we soon learned to expect fish, fish and more fish. Afterwards the team went on a small tour to better acquaint themselves with the area.
Principé has towering mountains produced by volcanic activity around 30 million years ago. These "picos" rise from the central portion of the island and tower above the coastal towns. The vegetation consists of cocoa, coffee, and banana trees. There are many signs of an agricultural past. Although the sugar based economy heeled to cocoa and coffee, the land was obviously used well into the 19th century.
Principe - California Academy of Sciences
A wet group in a dry bus!
Photo Dong Lin.
Principe - California Academy of Sciences
Another Principean vista. Photo Dong Lin.
Pedro and Fabio went to find the French fishermen to pick up necessary anesthesia for the fish survey. That was an adventure in itself, which culminated with a swim on the beautiful Praia Belo Monte. After a hard rain, the steep, muddy slope down to the beach was extremely slippery. Falling was not a problem, but avoiding the rocks was. Neither of the two could sit very comfortably that evening. Still, the views in Principé are incredible. The ocean hugs the shallow beach areas, and the water is a beautiful azure blue. We will do some snorkeling to explore these areas further.
20:30 Agua Doutor (Chada region), Principe
01º 39' 7.7"N, 007º 24' 57.8"E
After a dinner of various fish (Oahu and Pargo), we headed towards the airport area of the island, to an area called Chada. There was a great marsh area, and we could hear a loud chorus of frogs, crickets, and monkeys. This was an attractive area to collect in: still water on the left and thick forest to our right. Tino's training in collecting techniques has been a huge help to us and an enriching experience to him. He caught 16 frogs, as he put it "10 big ones, 6 small ones," and 2 different species.
Principe - collecting
Pedro and Tino collecting.
Photo Robert C. Drewes.

04.20.01 Friday
08:45 Agua Doutor (Chada region), Principe

01º 39' 7.7"N, 007º 24' 57.8"E
Tomio and Tino seined a stream that we had previously visited. It is a small stream with a definite presence of fish. This locale was primarily a recon mission for the two. We will all meet later, and the bus continued on.

0900 Principe Airport
01º 39' 54.4"N, 007º 24' 44.6"E
Doug, Fabio and Dong headed to the airport to look for bats that were reportedly nearby. Our bus driver took off before all of our camera equipment was hauled out. Fabio struck a deal with a passing car to help Dong chase down the bus and retrieve his equipment. Doug noticed a bat inside the small, empty terminal and with help from others with brooms we were able to collect a small Miniopterus.

After giving a lesson on morcegos (bats), a man told us of a bat colony 200 meters away. He took us to two small culverts that housed at least two hundred bats. Surprisingly, our guide asked if we wanted him to grab them by hand. Within a minute he came out with 5 specimens in each hand. We were also able to pick up two species of frogs, the small brown Phrynobatrachus dispar and greenish Hyperolius molleri. Our collecting lasted only 30 minutes, and we did not want to disturb the colony any further. Without transport and needing to refrigerate our specimens, we were given a lift by the airport director to Tomio's and Tino's location a couple kilometers down the road.

10:30 Agua Doutor (Chada region), Principe
The fish were present but nothing of great importance was collected. This stream was seined for an hour or so, producing some introduced Cichlids, commonly known as Tilapia. Tomio is looking forward to collecting in the streams toward the southern part of the island.

04.21.01 Saturday,
09:00 3.55km NW of Santo Antonio de Principe, elevation 195m

01º39' 38.8"N, 007º 23' 39.8"E
Charles, Norm and Balthazar (ECOFAC worker and native Principean) collected numerous species of micro-orb weavers, a tarantula and 8 Chrysopidae (green lacewings) of varying sizes and shapes. Different scientific disciplines are benefiting from varying manners of collecting. Entomologists generally cover a specific area over an extended period of time. After beating the branches in the surrounding woods and grasslands for 2.5 hours, Norm and Balthazar struck gold at a Cacao plantation. The duo collected several Chrysopidae (green lacewings) of tremendous size, double the size of a normal one! We stopped the bus on our way home and enjoyed the sunset.
Principe Sunset
We stopped the bus to enjoy the view.
Photo Robert C. Drewes

10:00 Sundy Plantation, Northern Principe
01º 40' 11.3N, 007º 22' 58.8E
The rest of the group headed further north to the Sundy Plantation. When asked about the animals in the area, one young boy in particular stood out from the pack. He understood what we wanted and more importantly, where to locate it. This 550 person community, per their community leader Luciano, consisted of about 350 kids, some animals and crops for the market. The area was vast, surrounded by large empty buildings, cradled by forests. Soon an elder gentleman named Moreiro, his hands displaying a life's worth of hard work, was nice enough to show us around the buildings… especially an aged water tower, a possible haven for lizards and bats. The rusted metal ladder led to a dark, smelly rounded room, unfortunately inhabited only by a single skink, large flies and a putrid smell. Another local, 32-year old Ze, showed some additional areas for catching skink and "lagartishas" (lizards), near the decrepid hospital and a newly built pig farm. We were going to spend only a couple of hours collecting at Sundy, and we needed to make the most of it. One team headed into the surrounding forest and worked near a small stream. We were able to collect a yellow-banded blind snake, Typhlops elegans. This was the first specimen collected of this species during our trip. The young man who caught it filled with pride when we reacted to his catch. The stream curved around large roots, providing small coves for the terrestrial animals, namely frogs. The area near Sundy also produced several skinks, and a green snake.

After learning that there were pet monkeys on site (and for sale), a couple of us had a chance to photograph them, for a price of 1000 dobras-or 15 cents. The monkeys were recently caught, not yet weened from their mother which we were informed was eaten. The babies were being fattened for sale to local restaurants, sailors and tourists. Unfortunately, we could do nothing more than attempt to teach these people how to keep a baby monkey healthy. You could see in the owner's eyes that he did not want to do what he did, but was forced to in order to provide for his family and community.

Sundy Plantation Children
Children at the Sundy Plantation, Principe. Photo Dong Lin.
Doug, Fabio, Luciano and 20 children marched out of the forest single file, clapping and yelling "Cobra Cego" (blind snake)…-this was done in jest of Jen's "Cobra Bobo" experience earlier in the trip. Overall, we got what we came for: an extremely large Leptopelis palmatus This specimen is the first Bob has seen of this type in his 30+ years of scouring the African continent. Tomio caught an endemic Lygodactylus (day gecko) on a building wall just as we were loading the bus to depart. We wonder what else we might have found had we had more time. We compensated the Sundy children for their effort, bountiful energy and acceptance of us, with trail mix and a small cash donation to their community leader. They seemed primarily pleased with having their photos taken. Everyone waved and smiled as we left ...perhaps we'll be back.

13:00 Baia des Agulhas , Island

01º 36' 03.2N, 007º 21' 11.0E
Camping on an African island brings with it some interesting and comical aspects. Jean-Louis and Patrice were the first to note the amount of equipment our group was carrying. They were baffled by what it was and why we needed it. As Jean-Louis said, 'Are you building a palace?"- Tino was quick to point out how expensive our camping gear was. "When we go camping, we just cut the palms and build a hut," he said. We muscled a generator, nets, poles, lab analysis tools and other miscellany onto the beach, as well as tents, sleeping bags, food, water/beer, and dry clothes. We used it all-twice over.
Principe - California Academy of Sciences
Camping on the Principé coast.
Photo Robert C. Drewes
Principe - California Academy of Sciences Charles Griswold
Necessity is the mother of invention ... and drying clothes. Photo Robert C. Drewes.
Charles beating a branch for spiders. Photo Dong Lin.
Periophthalmus papilio - mudskipper
A great find - Periophthalmus papilio (Mudskipper). Photo Robert C. Drewes
04.22.01 Sunday,
The Entomology group continued collecting along small nearby streams. Charles looked for spiders on tree trunks while Norm set up the light trap equipment for use later that night, which only produced some beetles and large Hawk moths. More intensive collecting was planned for the following day. Most of the group worked the shallow stream for fish. Using nets, but mostly our hands, we collected some small Gobi's, a couple moreiras (eels) and other small assorted fish.
18:00
Part of the group surveyed the northern edges of Principé Island by boat and returned with special treasure: 2 large barracudas. Within a 20 minute span, they were able to catch 2 massive fish. Needless to say, we ate well that night.

Doug and Fabio set up a mist net in an attempt to collect some bats. To do so, we took two palm leaves, each about 7' in length, and made them into poles. A mist net resembles a volleyball net, except that it will wrap around anything it touches, be it an insect, bird or plant. Although not scientifically proven, it appeard the small fruit-eating bats were not active without the moon present. Since they locate their food by sight and smell, we had a hard time finding them. The hope is that there will be better moonlight tomorrow.
Bob Drewes
Bob and barracuda ... "Who caught who here?" Photo by Bob Drewes.
Alcedo cristata - Malacite Kingfisher
Juvenile Malacite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata). Photo Dong Lin
04.23.01, Monday
Baia des Agulhas, Principé Island

We all collected near the camp. Eight hundred meters away were the remains of a deserted plantation called Maria Correia. We had to machete our way through the overgrown trail to reach it, but once we did it was well worth it. In its heyday, in the late 16th century, it was a thriving center for cultivating cacao, bananas and other vegetables. There were several buildings present, a storage bin, servant's quarters, and a wrap-around porch - a standard in Portuguese architecture to this day. We had only one specimen of note in our mist net - a juvenile Malachite Kingfisher, with a black streak on its beak. (Adult beaks are bright orange). It was released after we photographed it. Additionally,a couple of us went snorkelling in the shallow coves and saw several schools of needlefish, some Angel fish and a great display of coral.
04.24.01, Tuesday
06:30, Back to São Tomé

Our fishermen friends from the night prior came back in the morning with no frogs in hand, but a willingness to help us. We loaded the Max III with our gear, and prepared for the 3.5 hour boat ride to São Tomé.
Common Dolphin
Common dolphins ... one of 50 or so we saw heading back to São Tomé. Photo Robert C. Drewes.



 

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