National Geographic : 1985 May
On Assignment THE NILE was three miles away, but that didn't stop Shilluk tribesmen of Sudan, ea ger to pose for author-photographer Robert Caputo. When he asked to take their picture in a canoe, they quickly fetched half of their reed craft and jumped in (right). "I burst out laughing and so did they," Caputo recalls. "Before actual launching, they slip this half into a larger one and tie them together." Upriver, Caputo photographed himself with his own conveyance (below), a Mercedes cross-country vehicle packed with cans of wa ter and fuel, spare parts, camera gear, and food. Aluminum ladders helped him out of desert sand traps, and a cartop tent kept him out of reach of snakes and scorpions. Eight months and 12,000 miles later, Caputo had a lot of soup and corned beef left over. He had of ten dined with natives on sorghum stew, some times enhanced with hippopotamus meat. Caputo owes the course of his career to a baby chimpanzee. After college, he and friends crossing the Zaire rain forest chanced upon natives trying to sell the animal because he was too young to eat. "He was about a month old, and he would just cling to you. If we didn't buy him, he would die. We fed him milk from a wine bottle and named him Kobi." Wanting to reintroduce the chimp to the wild led Caputo to Jane Goodall in her chimpanzee study area in Tanzania. While there, Caputo learned to shoot wildlife documentaries from Baron Hugo van Lawick. Hooked on film and Africa, Caputo later ob tained a degree from New York University Film School. He has written and photo graphed NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC stories on Sudan and Ethiopia and is photographing an other on Kenya. And Kobi? Unable to adapt to the wild, he found a home at the Primate Foundation of Arizona in Tempe.