Sunday, December 4, 2011

Learning a new natural history

The risk in spending most of your life practicing natural history in one region is how easy it is to become complacent about what you know or how to go about learning what you don't. For example, I know the birds of North America pretty darn well, and if I encounter something I don't know, I know how to look it up.

Preparing myself to work on antelope in the Volta Region of Ghana has given me a much needed jolt out of my complacency. Emmanuel provided to me the Ewe names for the species that are used most often for heading drums. They are:


What's known about captive breeding of those species? Who knows; without knowing what the English or Latin names for them are, there's no way to explore the scientific literature that describes their breeding biology.

So translating the names from Ewe into English/Latin should be straightforward. Just (a) find someone here in North America who has done research on wildlife in Ghana, (b) get them to provide names for their Ghanaian colleagues, (c) contact those Ghanaian wildlife professionals to see if they speak Ewe, and if not, (d) get them to arrange for translations with their colleagues who do speak Ewe.

Simple. Except that it took me two months to accomplish this. As a result, I am no longer complacent. And for the record:

AVUGBE - Grey Duiker
KODZOE - Red Flank Duiker
DZAKE (Djoke) - Maxwell Duiker
ESE - Kob
DABO - Oribi

Now I have a much better idea of what we need to do.

And I also have an idea for a side project while we are there: start to develop an Ewe-language natural history. More on that later.

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