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Gabon's Great Leap
The Next Generation: Pygmy tracker uses GPS unit in Mikongo Camp

"We're here in Mikongo Camp in Lopé National Park, following an English gorilla, Rose, with a Pygmy tracker who had worked on the Megatransect with Mike Fay.

"The tracker is holding a special type of equipment—its functions are a mixture of GPS and palm pilot. On the screen, you can see icons of each different animal the tracker could encounter when he does his run along the elephant trails.

"The tracker sees either the animal or its tracks, and either way, he can record the information—type of animal, time of day, and the exact position. Here we'd found leaves eaten by a mandrill, so he clicked on 'leaves eaten' and 'mandrill.' At the end of the day, the information is downloaded on a computer. Then researchers compare it with the previous day, week, month, year, to see what the animals are up to, where they're eating, and so on.

"The GPS was designed for people who may not have the training or background to take down all the elements of an encounter. In Mikongo Camp, this type of technology is not unusual."

—Photographer Nicolas Reynard

Photography Notes

  • Camera: Nikon F100
  • Film: Provia 400
  • Lens: 20-35mm
  • Shutter speed: 1/125th
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • Time of day: 11 a.m.

"I was impressed by what this technology has done for Pygmies and other indigenous people, and I was trying to capture both extremes in this photograph.

"Pygmies poach, of course, because they rely on bushmeat. It's either called 'hunting and surviving' or it's called 'poaching.' The big problem right now is that hunting is not permitted in the new parks, which are their traditional hunting grounds, so many Pygmies are slowly moving out of the forests where they have lived for thousands of years to go to the villages and cities.

"But now, due to this GPS, the Pygmies have a reason to stay because they have the knowledge to track the animals. Modern technology gives them a way to work with the global community.

"It's a simple picture, really, but it shows that Pygmies can be included in our vision of protection and environment."


September 2003

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