Category Archives: CERCOPAN staff fighting to save rainforest and endanger

World Environment Day – “A second christmas”

By Fabian Schmidt

Me, relaxing in Calabar

Me, relaxing in Calabar

On June 5th, CERCOPAN once again held a truly inspiring and flamboyant event to celebrate World Environment Day (WED). The  event was attended by thousands of school children, the Governor of Cross River State, Commissioner of the Environment, Special Advisor on Biodiversity and Forests and the Chairman of the Forestry Commission, amongst many other important guests.

Although CERCOPAN began hosting this International Day of Environmentalism over ten years ago, this was my first ever trip to Nigeria and so I was very excited to be able to witness it for the first time. Coincidently, the celebrations fell on the last weekend of my stay in Calabar and as a result turned out not only to be a great opportunity to meet the Rhoko team again, but also to end my trip on an incredible high note.

Although the event itself is just a single day, CERCOPAN starts the preparations and associated environmental outreach almost 10 months before the actual carnival! Indeed, after one World Environment Day celebration ends, there is hardly time to relax before preparation for the next starts once again in earnest. As the event approaches nearer and nearer, the preparations reach a crescendo and by the final week all staff seem to be working tirelessly day and night to ensure that the event is perfect and hitch free – not an easy task in Nigeria!

I happened to be visiting CERCOPAN in May and June undertaking virology studies to assist CERCOPAN with their important release programme. Although I had set aside the final week of my stay to view pathology folders, it was almost impossible not to become caught up with the excitement of the event and before I knew it, I had been co-opted to join the event planning team! The majority of the funding needed for World Environment Day is provided each year thanks to the kind support of Cincinatti Zoo and Botanic gardens. Nevertheless, CERCOPAN also tries to involve local businesses and government to garner additional in-country support and increase the magnitude of the event.  This year was no exception, and in addition to gaining the support of many local companies, the government decided to help jointly host the event.

World Environment Day 2010 celebrations

World Environment Day 2010 celebrations

Everyone who had previously experienced the day, had explained to me how much June 5th means to the children and how much they look forward to the carnival, music, dancing and celebrations every year. Despite hearing so many stories I was amazed by the sheer strength of the reaction from the children on the day. The Chairman of the Forestry Commission in his speech put it best saying that for him and the children the event was like “a second Christmas”.

Children enjoying World Environment Day

Children Enjoying World Environment Day

The day was filled with unique and colourful dancing, environmental banners, speeches, the giving of prizes for environmental competitions run by CERCOPAN during the year and even a tree planting ceremony. The part of the day with the highest environmental education impact for me however, was probably the drama competition, which took place in front of the governor. His Excellency was not only notably moved by the enthusiasm of the acting, but also made the point strongly that that the future of our environment lies in the hands of the youth.

His Excellency, Liyel Imoke, Governor of Cross River State enjoying the dramas

His Excellency, Liyel Imoke, Governor of Cross River State enjoying the dramas

For me, World Environment day was a great way to end my trip to Nigeria and left me with lots of memories I will never forget. I am sure however, even as I write this and think about last months event, CERCOPAN are already busy working out how to make next years celebrations even bigger and better!

World environment day drama!

World Environment Day forest drama

Rhoko Rains Result In Stressed Staff But Merry Monkeys!

Everyone at CERCOPAN (Centre for Education, Research and Conservation Of Primates And Nature) told us that the rainy season in Rhoko Forest is something of an experience in itself. Take the struggles of just living in a remote environment and add enormous downfalls of rain and violent storms causing trees to fall, roads to completely change to cascading water, and just the general annoyance of your laundry NEVER properly drying – then you’ve got rainy season in one of the world’s wettest places! A few nights ago we experienced the first real storm of the rainy season and it was very impressive – lightning struck right next to our main hut, rain pounded our aluminium roofs so loudly we could not hear each other yelling, and trees fell all around us. In the morning we awoke to what I can only describe as scenes of complete devastation! The first storms of the rainy season are always the worst, as all the trees with weak and damaged limbs tend to fall at once with the weight of the water and force of the wind- and this certainly had happened.

In the morning, we received radio messages from our fantastic patrol and primate keepers that trees had fallen on our primate enclosures over night and all our 50 strong group of Red-Capped Mangabeys had escaped! Luckily, their quick work and sharp thinking meant that by the time we arrived at the enclosure (our progress was hindered by having to clear multiple trees along the road just to get our truck down – thank goodness for machetes), our team had managed to tempt the entire group back into their enclosure – never underestimate the power of bananas! Unfortunately though, the tree has severely damaged our fence and repairs are currently in progress to get it fully secure, although it will likely need to be replaced at the damaged point in the near future.

Staff worked tirelessly to clear the road and ensure the truck was able to pass through

With this disaster under control, we moved our attention to the mona enclosures adjacent to our main mangabey enclosure. Two massive buttress trees had fallen to rest on Etimbuk & Twiggy’s enclosure, and were straining the structure enormously. The two Monas however, were having a great time as the trees had brought a smorgasbord of insects for them to munch on and we had difficulty tempting them into a satellite to keep them safe as we worked on the tree removal. Luckily, this event happened on the last day our volunteer, Joe Brophy, was at camp. Joe is a tree surgeon based in the US and was able to help our team safely clear these massive trees – in the process teaching us a lot about the way trees fall, move and how we can clear them. Thanks Joe! Unfortunately, our work did not end here, as we received a message that a tree was blocking the road to the village from our camp. Our team jumped in the truck and sped off to clear the road for all the locals who depend on it to get to their farm and back.

Hard working staff cleared the trees with Joe’s expert help – although the monas were enjoying all the new insects they were finding!

Unfortunately, we also received a message that a tree had fallen on our community centre construction, a project currently underway at CERCOPAN. Again, our team arrived to remove the tree and assess the damage caused. The tree has caused extensive damage to the roofing structures that are just in the process of being built, and this has yet again set us back in our project budget and time line.

The fallen tree broke several beams of wood on the community centre

In our haste to secure the primate enclosures, we did not even notice the medium sized tree that had fallen on Sylvain’s (our Research Coordinator) hut – luckily he was in Calabar at the time! The clear up from the storm still continues but further rains (and extra costs) have hindered our progress and we still have 5 more months of rain to come! If you would like to help our camp survive the remaining wet season and make repairs, (plus ensure dampened staff at least don’t have dampened spirits!), then any donations will be gratefully received and put to good use.

Hanging out with the Mangabeys

One of the best things about having new Rhoko Managers is new blogs from new perspectives. At the moment, everything at Rhoko is exciting and exhilarating for us, as we’ve had many new experiences we couldn’t even dream of! Although we are incredibly busy running Rhoko, we always try to visit our primate enclosures everyday to observe our group of mangabeys. They are surprisingly big and powerful animals and the soap-operas of their families are fantastically entertaining.

Grace with Red Capped Managabeys

Grace with Red Capped Managabeys

A few days ago, Alex had his first encounter inside the mangabey enclosure, which can be a really intimidating experience. Conducting a fence check due to a bad storm the previous night, Sylvain, our research coordinator and Alex went into the enclosure. I stayed watch outside to spot any males sneaking up on them while they were working. Within 5 minutes of being inside the enclosure, the dominant and quite aggressive male, Clyde, decided to investigate this new, unfamiliar face who had entered his group, literally! He climbed onto Alex’s leg and pulled his beard, looked at his face and yanked his hair before satisfying himself that this person was not a threat and walking off to patrol his domain. Following Sylvain’s expertise, Alex stayed still and avoided eye contact and the encounter was intimidating but safe and enlightening. We look forward to many more encounters with these very special creatures!

Grace

CERCOPAN’s facebook fun (I mean fan) page

Despite the slow internet speeds in the African continent (or no net at all!), CERCOPAN has become very technically minded!  Now, in addition to our Wildlife Direct blog and our website www.cercopan.org CERCOPAN can be found to have a strong presence on Facebook.  Facebook, that has taken the world by storm in recent years, have pages dedicated to charity causes and CERCOPAN has been the proud owner of one for 8 months now, having over 750 members and having raised $175.  However now, in addition to that, we have just started a CERCOPAN fan page and it has lots of exciting topics to be investigated!

Look out for our cause page icon above, featuring Mickey the red-eared guenon

Look out for our cause page icon above, featuring Mickey the red-eared guenon

Not only can you flick through a wide range of our photos, several previously unseen, any time you wish that include the monkeys, Rhoko camp and forest, our World Environment Day celebrations, and many other categories soon to come, but you can also participate in surveys (currently to vote on what to name our new baby mangabey), start discussions with us and other fans on a variety of topics, sign up for our monthly Enewsletter, and be transferred to our shop to buy CERCOPAN products including adoption packs and posters!  Plus you can even access our Wildlife Direct blog from there though our networked blogs link!  We soon hope to bring video footage to it too so you can see the monkeys and our team in action! 

Vote on what to name Quality's new baby on our facebook fan page (Photo copyright of Oskar Brattström)

Vote on what to name Quality's new baby on our facebook fan page (Photo copyright of Oskar Brattström)

Why don’t you check it out and make further suggestions on our discussions board on what you would like to see up there?  It’s a work in progress so we would love your feedback!
Keep your eyes open for this image as its our fan page logo!

Keep your eyes open for this image as its our fan page logo!

February CERCONEWS out now!

Finally the February edition of CERCONEWS is available!

Follow this link to download your copy today!

http://www.cercopan.org/Downloads/CERCONEWS_FEB_10.pdf

CERCONEWS FEBRUARY 2010