The JBL Tanzania workshop, which turned into the Africa expedition
A JBL workshop normally takes one week and takes place at one location. But in Africa everything is different: 2 days of rainforest and savannah at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro, 2 days of coral reefs at Zanzibar and then another 3 days at Lake Tanganyika, plus a few days travelling with 74 people. It was great!
The aim of the JBL workshops is to introduce a lot of participants to the fields of aquatics and herpetology research, which deal with biotope analyses of the animals, at an affordable price. Thus aquarists and herpetologists, pet shop assistants and nature lovers can experience important factors first hand, instead of having to rely on dubious information in literature and in the internet.
Instead of participating in a holiday safari and observing large animals from jeeps, the participants made their way on foot into the animals’ habitats, looking for small crawlers and reptiles and working with measuring instruments and portable analysis units under the supervision of experts in their science, such as the biologist Bernd Humberg or Uwe Wünstel, head of the reptile centre in Landau, to learn more about the living habits and requirements of their aquarium and terrarium animals.
The 74 participants from 10 countries (from Brazil to Finland) were divided into small teams of eight, each of which was led by an expert/scientist and accompanied by a local snake catcher. So it didn’t get too crowded and it never came to a scrum.
All around the region of Arusha, which ranges from a height of 100m, up to Mount Meru with 4560 m, the landscapes are very varied. There are lakes and streams with rainforest, plains and dry savannah with big game and wide bush landscapes providing a diverse range of habitats. Both these habitats and their inhabitants were examined. Lux measurements showed values of over 100,000 Lux in a clear sky and UVB measurements had values up to 386 µW. The relative humidity fluctuated at one location between 42 – 90%, depending on the time of day.
In a clear savannah stream at the foot of Mount Meru within sight of the snow covered Mount Kilimanjaro, we found unidentified cichlids belonging to the genus of Haplochromis. Their genetic tissue sample analysis is currently in progress at the University of Graz. They are either an endangered species, which migrated from a dried-out lake to the stream, or a new species.
Island of Zanzibar
The second part of the workshop lay at the end of a one-hour domestic flight to the island of Zanzibar, situated not far away from the Tanzanian coast in the Indian Ocean, an island with many reefs and an atoll. The divers and snorkelers took a half-day boat trip to the surrounding reefs to finally observe “their” marine fish and invertebrates completely undisturbed in their natural habitat and to analyse the basic parameters of the habitats.
It is worth mentioning that some reefs were heavily coated with algae, although no external interference factors could be identified. Nutrient-rich deep currents were probably responsible for this smear algae.
Highlights of Lake Tanganyika
Another flight from Zanzibar took the workshop to their last stop; a lodge, directly situated at Lake Tanganyika. Almost all of the participants had had some experience of the cichlids from Lake Tanganyika, the world’s second deepest lake, in their aquatic career and they were keen to find out how much their aquarium conditions at home corresponded to their real habitats. The snorkelling participants were able to observe an unbelievable number of cichlids right at the foot of the lodge. Everything from Tropheus brichardi to Lamprologini to Opthalmotilapia was there!
In shallow waters of up to 5m depth the whole ground was covered with flat, rounded stones with a diameter of up to 40 cm. This boulder strewn wilderness was interspersed with sandy areas, which for many cichlid species represent the limits of their spread.
The diving workshop participants also had the opportunity to observe the depth dependent spreading of species. Thus Tropheus brichardi was only found in shallow waters of up to 5m depth, whereas Tropheus duboisi was found in depths over 30 m. Dr. Koblmüller, the Lake Tanganyika expert at the University of Graz, assumes that the T. brichardi were able to prevail against the T. duboisi in shallow water and displace them into deeper water. Below a depth of 13 m the divers also caught sight of the majestic Cyphotilapia frontosa for the first time, swimming between enormous boulders. This view made it worth having transported 15 compressed air cylinders by truck for over 50 hours from Arusha to Kigoma.
You rarely see so many participants clustered around the JBL water test kit cases than you did at Lake Tanganyika. Everyone wanted to determine and to note the unusual values for themselves. A KH of 16, a GH of 11 and pH levels around 9 are not very often found on this planet (for comparison with Lake Malawi: KH 7, GH 5, pH 8.5). The reason for these KH/GH shifts are soda sources which provide the lake with sodium hydrogen carbonates. Although they raise the KH level, they don’t count for the GH because of their sodium content.
The three days at Lake Tanganyika were surely one of the highlights of the workshop. Günter Winnewisser from Sandhausen grew emotional when he commented: „My interest in the aquatic hobby, which led to my profession and my currently owning a pet shop, started with the Lamprogus brichardi. For once in my life I wanted to see this cichlid in its natural habitat. And now this dream has come true!”