Marina leaves early each morning. The route she has to walk is long. The first phototraps are a few hills away. She placed them there herself a few weeks ago, while out on one of her excursions. As always she was accompanied by Mulenda, a 54 year old Congalese with the vitality and cheerfulness of a man of twenty. Their outing beings by checking the traps, positioned near the torrent, in a long row where, according to Marina, the animal passage is more intense.
She is constantly on the hunt for signs of their passing. Tracks, fur, feathers, droppings; everything has a precise meaning to be reconstructed to show us a picture of the biodiversity that, while we wait for indiscreet reports of the phototraps, we can only speculate. She has collected much in these past few days and the report of her patrols, her clues, that she often brings back to camp carefully wrapped in little packages of grass and leaves, illustrate for us how the night transforms these apparently desolate hills into a lively coming and going of fauna. Mulenda helps her to interpret the signs. Numerous antelopes leave the safety of the forest to take advantage of the generous hilly meadows.
The monkeys, at the edge of the forest, descend from the trees perhaps in search of fallen fruit. A few pangolins come carefully out into the open, never too far from the margin of the forest, on the trail of an infinite line of ants.
Down below, in between the leathery cushions of grass and heather, Marina’s traps are testimony to a likewise intense traffic. Small, quiet, nocturnal explorers run on the hunt for insects or larvae laid on the river’s bank. “I get the idea that in the field area we mainly have rodents.” Says Marina, whilst the shrew, she thinks, seem to prefer the river bank. “So far we believe to have found samples of five different species. Three rodents and two shrews”.
Marina returns at the end of the day, bringing back with her the traps, in preparation of our departure. The whole camp gathers around her, curious to discover which visitors let themselves be captured by our indiscretion. It is further significant information on the biodiversity of these mountains. I proceed slowly towards the group, but the surprised gasps and cheering convince me to transform my slow step into a run.