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.