Airdate: May 16, 2018
Scientist: David Wilkie
Army Ants Clean House
A nest of marauding ants can number in the millions. This archival program is part of Pulse of the Planet's 30th anniversary celebration.
HUNTERS OF THE ITURI - ARMY ANTSCelebrating three decades of Pulse of the Planet, here's a program from our archives.musicThe Ituri Forest of Northeastern Zaire is the home of the Efe People. This week, we've been following the exploits of a group of Efe men and boys as they search for honey. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.(Wilkie) "They're talking about expectations for the honey hunt. Little boys are thrilled about going on a honey hunt and are looking forward to consuming, hopefully, large quantities of delicious honey." David Wilkie is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Utah.Ambience, honey trek(Wilkie) "The Efe tend not to have machetes to cut their way through the forests. It would take you hours to do that. So, you just find the least obstructed route, which means ducking under vine tangles and clambering over fallen logs."Suddenly, our group encounters a swarm of Army ants, called "Ciafu" in the Efe language. (Wilkie) "A foraging nest of Ciafu can probably cover about the size of a football field. There's millions of them, over the branches, over the trees, everywhere. You certainly don't want to hang around because then, pretty quickly, you'll have hundreds, if not thousands, of Ciafu crawling all over you." Ambience: music, faintly in background Although a close encounter with a group of Ciafu sounds like a bad idea, they do serve an important function. Village huts are often overrun with insect pests, such as cockroaches and beetles. If a marauding band of Ciafu comes foraging at night, villagers willingly give up their huts and sleep in a different location.(Wilkie) "What the Ciafu do is act like an exterminator and they just clean out all your cockroaches and all your pests. So when you abandon your hut for the Ciafu at night, and come back in the morning, the Ciafu are gone and all that's left of your pests are a few cockroach wings and a few beetle mandibles." This archival program is part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration. Im Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.David Wilkie is currently an Executive Director at the Wildlife Conservation Society.