Miroslav Bobek et al., 2 July 2009
Interview with Adrea Turkalo. Part I
Andrea Turkalo has lived in a small forest camp in the southwest of the Central African Republic. Every morning she walks to a shelter hidden at the edge of a unique “forest elephant clearing”. Supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the US government, she conducts research into the life of forest elephants and tries to contribute to their protection.
Who discovered this “elephant clearing” and when?
This clearing is called Dzanga and and it has always been known for the wildlife. I have a German friend who first came here in the 1960s and he filmed here. Now he is in his 70s but he comes back periodically to film. He came here when there was no road to Bayanga, he walked all the way with his equipment. He walked all through this area and filmed. Before he came in the 1960s, the areas was, of course, known to the Bayaka, Pygmies. When you talk to them about this area, even the older ones, they remember as very small children walking to this area and hunting. Now, it is a national park, so hunting is not allowed but they have always known this area. There are also other clearings in this area but none of them are alike Dzanga where you can see 40-100 elephants a day.
Why do so many of them come to the clearing?
They come for minerals. They dig big holes in the dry season and now you see them pumping through water and that’s to get down below to the minerals. These minerals are probably helping them digest the food they are eating. A lot of the food they get in the forest is very poor quality. The best quality food they get is fruit but it is very seasonal, that only found during a certain period of the year. So when they cannot get fruit, they are eating leaves and bark and whatever they can get, and it probably has a lot of poisons in it. So they come here to eat the soil and it is sort of medication because it lessens the toxicity of the food that they are eating.