Category Archives: CERCOPAN staff fighting to save rainforest and endanger

Dallas is his name…and construction is his Game!

Waking up today in Rhoko Forest, I had an invigourated feeling about the days upcoming events. This feeling was not just inspired by the ever-soothing sounds of the rainforest at dawn, which always does a good job of adding an extra bounce to my step in the morning ( granted, after my first cup of coffee!). My feelings of excitement were multiplied by the fact that I knew we were welcoming a new addition to the CERCOPAN family at Rhoko Camp. Dallas is a Canadian civil engineer who has been building roads in the harsh conditions of Alberta, and decided to give construction in the rainforest a go! Being a Canadian myself, I’m aware just how different those two jobs might be, with their own dichotomous set of challenges posed by very different climatic conditions. But I have every confidence that Dallas is the man for the job!

Dallas on a tour of Calabar HQ with Head Keeper Egu

Dallas on a tour of Calabar HQ with Head Keeper Egu

Claire, Alex (the Rhoko Co-Manager) and I picked Dallas up in Calabar on Saturday evening – coming from Canada, he had been travelling since Wednesday! Arriving in Nigeria is always daunting, regardless of how much jet-lag you are suffering from, but Dallas was relaxed and excited about his new home and new adventure. On Sunday, we travelled up to Rhoko with Dallas, allowing him to get acquainted with our bush truck, and see the sights and sounds of Cross River along the way. A quick tour of camp, dinner, a nice chat, and then relatively early to bed was the agenda once we arrived.

Dallas with Simon at the main hut on his first day

Dallas with Simon at the main hut on his first day

This morning was his first proper day at camp and started out how most days do: up at 7:00 with some coffee and toast, and a chat about the day’s plans and activities over breakfast. Dallas was excited to explore the forest more and see the enclosures, particularly the mangabeys. After a quick meeting with our Assistant Operations Manager, Obio, we sent Dallas to the enclosures with Sylvain, our Research Coordinator to have a look around.  As Dallas was busily exploring Rhoko’s many attractions with Sylvain, we got down to work again, preparing for the move of one of our captive mona groups housed near the mangabeys, to their new home further into the forest. At lunch we reconvened to hear about Dallas’ first impressions of his new home – all very positive!

Dallas is someone who wants to hit the ground running, which really suits our small, dedicated team. He even took it in good humour when I explained to him his first job at camp – fixing his future home! You might remember that we blogged about some storm damage a few weeks ago – one of the hardest hit structures was Dallas’ hut! We are currently housing him in our tourist facility until he can begin work on it. The roof was completely destroyed by a very large tree that fell. We are desperately trying to raise funds to buy the materials to fix his roof so he can move to his home and settle in to life in the Forest. Any donations are greatly appreciated!

Dallas' Hut seriously damaged by recent storms

Dallas' Hut seriously damaged by recent storms

February CERCONEWS out now!

Finally the February edition of CERCONEWS is available!

Follow this link to download your copy today!


CERCONEWS January edition out now!

The new edition of CERCONEWS is out today. Please download using this link cerconews-january-2010.pdf


A perfect happy ending for one of lifes survivors

Reintroducing monkeys into their natural habitat is the ultimate step to fulfill CERCOPAN ‘s mission.  Some CERCOPAN monkeys have already been released back into Rhoko forest and we plan to undertake more reintroductions in the coming year, including both red-capped mangabey and mona monkey groups.  A release group has already been selected in Calabar and has been bonding as a family for some time now. CERCOPAN research team is still working on adding additional individuals to the group however, prior to moving the animals to the pre release forest enclosure.


The release group

Mottie, a 9 year old male, was added to group in November. Among all the monkeys I have seen that have unfortunately been snatched from the forest and their families to be kept as pets, Mottie arrived in the worst state. We found out about his plight when someone visited the compound and informed us that their neighbour had a monkey and was tired of it so was about to kill it. Obviously we went to his rescue immediately. He had been kept alone in a tiny enclosure and had been fed nothing but pounded cassava. He was suffering from malnutrition, had lost most of his fur and had an obsession for catching insects, which is obviously how he had managed to survive. When he was brought to our compound, it actually took a while for staff even to recognize what species of monkey he was. Nobody knows how he had managed to hold on as long as he had, but we were absolutely determined to do everything we could to make up for the abuse he had suffered.


Mottie when he first arrived at CERCOPAN, barely recognisable as a Mona monkey

Thankfully, despite this difficult start Mottie recovered quickly and thrived in the presence of other Monas. He had had his own group with several juveniles and spent his time protecting and playing with them. Among them was Offiong, a juvenile male, who entered the release group just before  Mottie. When Mottie first entered the group, Offiong was by far the most confident of the juveniles with Mottie, since the others were more scared of this large new adult male. After more than a month in the group however, Mottie has bonded with everyone and spends time playing with the infants and threatening anything that comes near his new family.


BELLA (middle), with OMOR (right) and RUNA (left)

We have just added two additional juvenile females to the group, Bella, one of our more recent monkeys, brought from Lagos in March 2009, and Sandra, a 2 year old female. The bonding of these juveniles is so far going very well, aided by their young age and the natural instinct of the older individuals to protect the youngsters. There are now 8 animals in the release group, Sandra, Bella, Ikom, Runa, Omor, Offiong, Kemi and Mottie. We hope to transfer them into the forest at the beginning of 2010, a few weeks before releasing them into Rhoko Forest Core Area. We are all excited for the day that Mottie leads his family off into the forest, truly free and able to raise his children in the wild where they belong.


Mottie today, awaiting his return to the forest

Wing and a Prayer – Injured baby owl taken in by CERCOPAN

by Richard Carroll, Rhoko Manager

It seemed like an ordinary day, at least in as much as those exist in CERCOPAN, either way there was little to hint that another bundle of joy was about to drop into my lap. I’d dropped the week’s supply of monkey food down with keepers and had taken the opportunity to call Calabar HQ from the 2 metre radius mobile phone network hotspot. I don’t know how these things work; generally I just accept the magic that allows me to talk to the outside world from the forest… even if I need to walk 15 minutes to a fallen tree which randomly has access to two networks. Anyway, following all that I arrived back to the education centre to be greeted by Usor, one of our research assistants whom I had last seen half an hour earlier heading off into the forest to follow wild putty nosed guenons for the day.


“Usor, what are you doing here?”  Usor didn’t immediately reply, but stood to one side to reveal a small bundle of fluff and feathers on the ground behind him.

“I found it on Camp Trail near Okibomi; it was just on the path it must have fallen from a tree” he explained as I stooped to investigate further. Two orange eyes peered back at me from the sprawled heap of downy plumage and a small hook-beaked mouth opened and closed threateningly..imagine an aggressive feather duster. An appraisal of this strange creature rendered the following conclusions: one, I was being confronted by a very young, rather put out owl; and two: it had a broken wing.


My first thought had been to find which tree it had fallen from and to return it to the nest as soon as possible.  Seeing the one wing hanging at an awkward angle on the ground had put paid to this idea of a quick fix. A slight uneasiness was beginning to form in my mind, I can never turn down an animal in distress, but I have very little experience with caring for young birds and none regarding how to fix a broken wing. I knew that without that the right care this baby owl would never be able to fly and being without access to a vet currently; that responsibility had fallen on me. I went back to the fallen tree and once again called Calabar, informing them of our new arrival and begging them to unearth some advice on how to proceed for the best.

Back at main camp, a search amongst our Spartan food supplies revealed only a tin of corned beef as a potential food item; hardly ideal, but more palatable to an owl than potatoes or instant noodles. The anticipated lunchtime radio call furnished me with a better understanding of nutritional do’s and don’ts for owls and, between the bursts of static, a rundown on how to fix a broken wing; all teased out from the internet by Amy.


Over the next few days we gradually managed to adapt to a suitable menu for our newest addition, initially feeding time was a constant battle. Hours were spent attempting to convince this fussy little eater that, really, a mix of tinned meat, fish, raw egg and maggots was very tasty. Sylvain and I tried all manner of feeding strategies, once again convincing several staff members of our lack of mental stability as we experimented with a variety of potential ‘mother owl’ noises to encourage a feeding response.

Fresh lizard, rat and chicken- all go down very well, though the preparation of such items is rather grim. It helps that we both have a background in biological sciences so, in many ways, preparing these meals is very reminiscent of dissection classes.

As for the broken wing, well its early days and we won’t really know for a while. However, the bandaging seems to have held everything back in the right position and despite our as yet unnamed little friend being an awkward patient, removing his dressing during the night, everything looks to be healing okay.

How the owl came to fall from the nest I guess we’ll never know; being so young and carrying an injury means we now have an uphill battle on our hands, to fulfil our dream of seeing him or her fly again. There’s a fighting spirit inside this bundle of feathers though, shining out through those amber eyes and seeing that tenacious spark from within, makes me believe that this little one may just have a chance.

Rescued fluffy baby owl

New babies flexy and delight rescued by CERCOPAN

by Amy Baxter, Temporary Office and Finance Manager

CERCOPAN is pleased to announce that we now have two new additions to our monkey residents!  Saved from an uncertain fate, two young putty-nosed guenons, Flexy and Delight, were rescued by staff and brought to our Calabar compound.  We had a tip-off from a secondary school teacher who visited CERCOPAN with his class not long a go.  While he was here we explained to the class why primates shouldn’t be kept as pets and told them that it was even against the law in Nigeria.  After this short visit to our site, he walked past a compound where he could see two young putty-nosed guenons and he immeditely came to CERCOPAN to inform us.  We were very pleased that our educational messages were successfully absorbed and it gives us great hope for the future that we can continue to change the opinions of Nigerian residents!


His information indicated that the owner sold monkeys commercially and so we were even more concerned and determined to rescue the pair and to stop any more trade.  Our Education Assistant, Martina, stopped by the compound on the way to work to investigated the situation further.  She was very concerned upon arrival about the number of ‘area boys’ close by, a group known to be involved in criminal activities and often very dangerous.  She left without entering the compound but could see one putty-nosed guenon from where she stood.  Our bravest lads decided they would all go together to confiscate the putties, feeling strength in numbers was the best pproach on this occasion. They had expected a long debate with the owner to persuade him to give up the pair, but the whole situation turned out to be much easier than expected…….


Vet nurse Austin with Flexy and Delight

The owner knew CERCOPAN and had visited in the past as he loved monkeys.  He recognized Martina immediately and said he had expected to receive a visit from us at some point.  Our staff asked him is he knew keeping monkeys was against the law and he did, as did his wife who had been nagging him to take them to CERCOPAN for some time!  He had planned to go but had become so attached to the pair, that he had been postponing the visit.  He admitted that had previously  traded in monkeys, selling them for about 8000 naira each (approximately ?30) but had often kept them for a while before selling them to enjoy their company.  When our team had arrived the monkeys were running around the compound, having escaped from their enclosure, but were quite happy to stay around the family home.  They were playing in the trees and climbing on the roof, not a bit disturbed by this large group of people watching their antics.

While arranging the hndover of the monkeys with the owner, we discovered one of them didnt actually belong to him. They had been placed together by the two separate owners to keep each other company.  He was very hesitant to give up the second animal, explaining that the other owner would think he had sold the monkey to make money. The next hour was spent trying to contact the other owner and then negotiating with him and his family. Eventually, our staff finaly talked him into releasing the monkey into our care and Flexy nd delight were brought home to CERCOPAN. They are a friendly and confident pair, even around humans.  So much so that they didn’t even need a travel box on the car journey home, cheerfully clinging to each other and Egu, our head keeper’s, arm.


Now they are waiting at CERCOPAN for their medical tests so they can be moved in to a big group with other puttys.  We have 3 other young puttys and 1 slightly older individual already waiting to move out from quarantine and they will form one big happy group once Flexy and Delight are ready.  They won’t be without their guardian though, making sure they all stay in line; Double Chief, an old male, with be put in charge of the nursery group and will make sure no one misbehaves!

CERCOPAN saves rare drill monkey!

Usually a trip to Agoi is an anticipated event, often for an exciting occasion when the local community are even more cheerful than usual and their specially brewed, extra ‘hot’ spirit is more readily available.  This trip however, was quite different from those usually encountered.

We had received information that a drill monkey was being kept as a pet within the village.  Our first response was to inform Pandrillus, another primate organisation based in Calabar who specialise in drill monkey and chimpanzee rehabilitation.  Due to their current schedule and as Agoi is so close to our forest site, they asked us if we could go and remove the animal from the situation.  CERCOPAN will never buy an animal, as it encourages people to try to catch them for financial gain, and we try to avoid getting the police involved as it deters people getting in touch to donate animals already in their possession.  In these cases we try to negotiate with the owners and hope to persuade them to give up their animal, making them understand why it’s better for the individual and for them.


Rescued Juvenile Drill monkey     

When we first sent our CERCOPAN representative to see the owner we found it very hard to get our message across.  The owner, did not want to give up the animal.  He said he had paid 4000 naira for the monkey, now a juvenile male named Chris, from a hunter back in January of this year.  He had been caring for it since then and it had been living in a small wooden box constructed from wooden planks at the side of his house.  The box only had some small holes to see out of and soon he would grow far too big for the box, as adult male drills grow to a huge size.


Adult male Drill Monkey

When our first approach was not working, we attempted to negotiate with someone who had the power to sway the owner’s opinion; the local chief of the village.  The chiefs of a village often have the final say in many decisions and solve many disputes involving village residents.  After consulting the chief he spoke to the owner and began to change the owner’s position on the situation.  To begin with the owner still wanted a reward in the form of guaranteed employment.  Again we had to explain that if we agreed to such terms we would continually have this problem in future situations, and inadvertently increase the number of primates removed from the forest when others decided to use them as a means of getting a job.

Eventually he understood our position and we reached an agreement whereby he would receive a certificate stating that he had donated the drill monkey to us.  We left to prepare a certificate and returned, again to a big discussion about the situation.  Luckily we still managed to make him see he was doing the best thing and Chris was handed over in front of a crowd of around 50 people.  In addition to his certificate we presented him with information leaflets about why it is wrong to hunt monkeys and a poster urging people to protect the highly endangered drill monkey.

To make the entire event official, various traditions had to be adhered to.  After the exchange of monkey and certificate, further exchanges had to be made involving kai-kai; the locally brewed spirit that happens to be particularly strong in Agoi.  This isn’t the kind of exchange where each party buys a bottle and the other takes it home to drink leisurely in their own time – this is when both parties buy a bottle and both bottles must be finished by the end of the gathering.  A little speech was made by both sides and then each departed, swaying slightly from side-to-side!

Chris was brought to our Calabar site late the next evening where he remained in our quarantine area overnight and where he had more space than he had been used to before.  He seemed to enjoy it so much that, by the next day, he was so eager to run around more he managed to escape our trained staff and cause havoc around the office.  After destroying several office items, chewing keys off computer keyboards and peeing on important papers, we finally managed to calm him down and return him to a travel box.  After that he was taken to Pandrillus and reunited with those of his kind.  Now he is busy making new friends and learning what it is really like to be a drill monkey!

Truant baby Mangabey returns home

On the 30th September, one of our youngest mangabeys found his adventurous streak and took a trip to the ‘outside world’.  Despite being in a large 1 hectare, semi-free ranging forest enclosure Judim, approximately 6 months old, decided he was ready to explore a bit further afield.  The primate keepers at our Rhoko forest site were very surprised when they arrived one morning to discover the small mangabey climbing the trees outside the enclosure.  It is particularly rare that we have mangabey escapes at our forest site, mainly as their enclosure is so large they are usually quite happy inside, and also because we have an electric fence running around the outside making it particularly difficult to climb out without a little buzz!  The only time we worry about escapes is when a storm has caused a tree to fall on the fence and we have some teenage males looking to find exotic girls from another troop!


Judim our little adventuror!

What was even more surprising about Judim’s escape was that usually he was such a quiet, nervous infant! It is very rare to see him away from his mum, so where this daring notion came from is anybody’s guess!  We think he must have crawled under the electric tape to where the normal metal fence is and then started to climb up, being small enough to not touch the electric tapes about 25cm away.  Once he got to the top I don’t think he realised he would be separated from his mum if he played in the ‘adventure playground’ the other side of the fence. Once he was on the other side and this separation dawned on him he wasn’t too happy, nor was mum for that matter! Both mum and infant started to get distressed, and Judim tried several methods to try to get back in with the other mangabeys.  The CERCOPAN workers who had gone to help tried to reduce their stress by not getting too close and attempting to distract the rest of the group with food.  It would be impossible to pick up the infant and return him to the enclosure without being mobbed by the group, so everyone was forced to wait while Judim worked out a method to return himself.  Eventually, after several different tactics had failed, Judim cimbed a tall tree over-looking the enclosure.  Here he weighed up his options and chances of leaping back in to the enclosure and, with baited breath, the staff looked on. With every other possibility exhausted and now clearly desperate, Judim took the death-defying leap and luckily landed safely in his mother’s arms.  Both mother and Judim were extremely relieved and joyful about being united, but I’m pretty sure Judim got a serious telling off when these emotions wore off!


October CERCOPAN newsletter now available here!

 The October edition of the CERCOPAN monthly newsletter can be dowloaded from the link below



Hope you enjoy it! Look out for the next issue on the 5th November.

Pica, our cute baby mangabey, proving herself one tough cookie!

Back in June Peace, a female mangabey from Callistus’ group, had her first ever infant, Pica.  Pica, a beautiful baby girl, arrived just 2 weeks after the birth of Marvelous; a bouncing baby boy, born to Mercy.  As Peace’s first infant, she was rather unsure how to look after Pica and seemed confused as to what her motherly duties involved.  As the first few weeks passed, her mothering instincts began to develop and improved somewhat, but unfortunately, as we carefully observed the pair we could see that Peace was still not fulfilling some of the important jobs she needed to do.


Peace and Pica: at times her mothering instinct kicked in. 

Peace easily lost interest in Pica, and so Pica spent a lot of her time riding around on the back of her older brother, Marley.  These two got on famously and Marley was always there to lend a helping brotherly hand!  She really enjoyed playing with him and he enjoyed playing with her, unless he wanted to play-fight with some of his older friends!  When Marley was not around though and Peace wasn’t interested, we had the problem that, in this prolonged wet season we are experiencing here in Cross River State, Nigeria, there was no-one to shelter Pica from the elements.  Being so small she felt the cold easily and when there was no-one to cuddle up to when she was wet, the staff at CERCOPAN began to worry.  In addition to this we had noticed that Pica was not putting on weight like Marvelous, who was only 2 weeks older.  As we continued to pay close attention to Peace and Pica’s relationship, and the nursing behaviour of the pair, we eventually came to the conclusion that the best course of action was to remove Pica from the group and hand-rear her until she was strong enough to return.  It was a tough decision and always a last resort here at CERCOPAN.

  Despite the vast experience CERCOPAN volunteers have in hand-rearing rescued, orphaned infant monkeys, Pica proved to be somewhat more difficult.  Never before had we had the problem of the mother still being in the vicinity and in ear-shot of the infant.  Pica refused to eat while she could hear her mother, and the two were continually trying to communicate with each other.  Our best option was to take Pica to our volunteer living-quarters two doors down the road and here she became much more settled.  Now she is a happy little monkey who loves lots of attention when she’s fed. She runs around the room where her travel box is being kept, climbing and jumping off the furniture.  She is putting on plenty of weight and we are really happy with the progress she is making.  We can’t wait for the time when we can reunite her with her mother, her brother and the other members of her group.

By Amy Baxter, Mangabey Research Coordinator, temporary Finance and Office Manager

Photographs by Sam Trull

 Pica after she has rolled in mud or food!

Pica, after having rolled in either mud or food!