Category Archives: Communities

Alternative livelihoods

You might have seen the posts on the blog and Facebook Page about CERCOPAN’s implementation of livelihoods projects in Agoi Ibami, Iko Esai, and Owai. But why are we doing this? What does it have to do with primate conservation? Let me explain…..


The forest communities Iko Esai, Agoi Ibami and Owai are highly dependent on the forest for income and protein. Hunters and non-timber forest product (NTFP) collectors make extended trips into the forest in search for wild meat and other NTFPs (e.g. salad, bushmango). Some of their catch is consumed by the family, what remains is sold. At the same time, farmers exert pressure on remaining forest by clearing tracts of land for new farms, and often use snares to catch animals that wander out of the forest in search of food on their farms.


Boy selling bushmeat in Iko Esai

The alternative livelihoods projects that are implemented by CERCOPAN are targeted towards those groups with a disproportionally large impact on the rainforest and wildlife. By offering hunters, NTFP collectors, and farmers alternative sources of income and protein, CERCOPAN creates an environment where sustainable exploitation of the rainforest´s resources is possible.

The local conservation bylaws, agreed between CERCOPAN and the communities, include many stipulations, including a ban on primate hunting and a ban on the use of snares. However, can we expect people that live in poverty, struggling for their survival, to not shoot a monkey when the chance presents itself? By providing alternative sources of income and meat, sustainable and selective hunting is made possible. If they are occupied elsewhere, and have additional income, hunters might just forego to make that kill. And if they don’t, there is the CERCOPAN patrol team to take appropriate action.

This year, CERCOPAN has been able to implement alternative livelihoods projects in Owai, Iko Esai, and Agoi Ibami with financial support from IUCN France. The first round of implementation is ongoing. In this round, around 60 community members will be set up and trained in different alternative livelihoods projects. A second round of projects will follow in 2013. The projects for each community have been selected in a participatory process and based upon experiences of CERCOPAN and other NGOs in different countries. Each community is different, and the projects reflect that. Iko Esai has chosen for a project involving domestic meat supply, which will provide a source of income to the group and will provide an alternative to wild meat. In Owai, fifteen snail farms and ten beehives have been set up. The snails are an excellent protein source and can be sold in the village, and the farmers have known a productive first season since April. The bees will produce honey that can be sold.

Over the coming months, we will keep providing updates on the implementation of these alternative livelihoods projects. Stay tuned!

Beekeeping training in Owai

Land use mapping in Owai

A blog from Chris Hamley, our volunteer Patrol Coordinator!

“The machine is hot”, Benjee’s description of our motorbike’s fuel tank as we ride from Rhoko Camp to Iko Esai. He’s sitting up front, catching a lift back to Iko Esai, from where I will continue on another 4 hour journey to another of our project communities: Owai. The fuel tank has a leak and the vapour is giving Benjee a short cause for concern. As the crow flies, Owai is only 12km from Rhoko Camp but taking the most direct route would involve a 6-hour trek through rainforest and farmland. Since my coming week is to involve a busy trekking schedule, I’ve opted for the “easier” alternative. My bike journey ends up being somewhat wet and uncomfortable. After arriving in Owai and a quick rice and stew washed down with a mineral (Nigerian Pidgin for ‘soda’), I settle in for the night in my accommodation for the week.  One of CERCOPAN’s protected area patrol officers, John, has offered me to stay in his house: a nice mud-walled 2-room thatch on the village edge.

My mission this week is to work with two CERCOPAN protected area patrol officers (John and Sylvanus, both from Owai) and the conservation surveillance team to collect information for a participatory land use map. The map is to give the community a better understanding of the extent of their farming and forest use practices and initiate a process of planning sustainable land management. After a focus group meeting with community representatives a few weeks earlier, it is now time to use GPS and local knowledge to locate and map all the places and land activities identified by the focus group participants.

Chris Hamley, CERCOPAN’s Patrol Coordinator

The Owai surveillance team has been formed by the village Community Based Organisation (CBO) to monitor adherence to conservation rules and laws. On this occasion, I’ll be combing GPS training and a rapid land cover/land use survey. Starting from the village every morning for 4 days, we walked 5 main trails in different directions to the Owai boundary areas covering a spectrum of landscape features. The survey team picked up the methodology quickly and we were soon able to split up and cover a larger area. Together we completed the week having trekked nearly 85km.

By taking GPS way-points we’ll now be able to accurately develop a map that reflects the community’s relationship to their lands and natural resources. By combing this data with information from satellite imagery we will delineate areas of current land use activities. We will then work with Owai to identify zones to be set aside for either farming, forest conservation, sustainable use or urban development. From this, it’s hoped that the community will have an improved capacity to monitor their resources while taking a more active and informed role in conservation.

Using the GPS to save landmarks

My return journey to Rhoko Camp was no less eventful than the trip out. Sylvanus offered me a ride to the highway and we spend 3 hours navigating the slippery dirt road which leads to the highway, walking to fetch fuel and repairing brakes on the way. I squeeze into a Cross Lines taxi-bus to get to Ibogo, from where Manson will give me a ride back to Iko Esai on the motorbike.

Note: Due to the difficult access to Owai village, CERCOPAN has started the construction of a small office in Owai. This project, like our livelihoods projects and CBO work,  is sponsored by IUCN France. We will provide updates on the progress of the land use map and office construction on our Facebook and in the monthly newsletter, CERCO-NEWS.

The start of a small office in Owai



Giant African snails in Owai

A blog from our Community Conservation Manager, BenJee Cascio!

Working with the forest dependent communities requires innovative solutions to address their subsistence and livelihood needs. Assisting the communities in alternative livelihoods allows community members to reduce dependency on the forest and reduce poverty. CERCOPAN has been involved in alternative livelihood projects in Iko Esai for some time and has recently extended the projects to the neighboring village of Owai. The first project that was implemented was giant snail farming.

For those who are unfamiliar with the species, the Giant African Snail (Archatina mariginata) is a snail that is common in forest areas of Nigeria. These snails can grow to be between 200-450 grams and provide excellent nutritional benefits and high reproduction rates. Snail farming is a relatively new idea though the consumption of these snails is common practice in our partner communities. The community of Owai selected snail farming as one of the livelihood options during a focus group needs assessment.

Fifteen people were selected to begin the project and after weeks of training and preparation, the construction of the snail farms was completed in May. The onset of the rainy season is the optimal time to raise snails as they reproduce and provide new stock, allowing farmers to sell off their mature snails for profit. CERCOPAN provided an initial stock of 40 snails  and the community members matched this contribution with snails gathered from the forest.

BenJee and a proud snail farm owner in Owai

Raising healthy snails requires a few crucial things: food, water and shade. The snails eat a variety of foods including locally available pumpkin leaf, papaya leaf, papaya and a variety of other leafy greens. Gathering food is a relatively easy task for farmers as the products are available locally and only small quantities are required. It’s important to keep a steady supply of water for the snails though the wet season assists in keeping the moisture content at an optimal level. Since the snails are nocturnal it is imperative they are kept in the shade and cool during the day. Farmers had constructed their farms under trees or have built temporary shelters to keep the snails cool.

With all the right ingredients for success the snail farmers are experiencing benefits within their first few months of training. The snail farmers have even been able to network with an outsider who is interested in purchasing snails in bulk, thus facilitating the organisation of a formal cooperative to sell and manage the snails. Although there have been some obstacles such as minor mortality and ant infestations, the group has worked together to address and troubleshoot these problems. As the first batch of eggs are hatching the snail farmers are beginning to formulate their strategy to sell their first batch of snails!

CERCOPAN back to blogging!

The CERCOPAN blog has been dormant for a while… but I am fully committed to again provide you with frequent updates on the ins and outs of our activities in Nigeria! I am Nicky, Director at CERCOPAN. Based in Calabar, I frequently travel to our field locations in Rhoko forest camp and Iko Esai community to make sure all our programmes run smoothly. They usually don’t – one of the perks of my job is that I am called upon whenever problems arise, but not when things are going well! With 36 Nigerian staff members, 6 long-term expat volunteers, a PhD researcher, 172 monkeys, three cats, eight dogs, and a goat, you can imagine my CERCOPAN family is a demanding one. While slightly distracting at times – especially when trying to meet a deadline for a grant application or report – I wouldn’t want it any other way!

Below, as introduction for the new “round” of blogs, a reminder of who CERCOPAN is and what we do!

me & some of our Calabar staff

The Centre for Education, Research and Conservation of Primates and Nature (CERCOPAN) is a UK-registered Charity (Reg. No. 1116955) with operations in Cross River State, Nigeria. Our mission has remained the same since we were founded in 1995: to conserve Nigeria’s monkeys and their rainforest homes. CERCOPAN’s work benefits monkeys, communities, and the rainforest to ensure long-term sustainable impact.


CERCOPAN has over 150 primates of 6 different species in various stages of rehabilitation, most of them orphaned by the bushmeat trade. Three of these (the sclater’s guenon, preuss’ guenon and the red-eared guenon) are endangered and only found in this region of Africa. These primates serve as a focus for education, and act as ambassadors for conservation.

Sclater's guenon Ubie

The monkeys are often sick and traumatised upon arrival, and need medical care as well as behavioural and social rehabilitation. The primates, once healthy, are introduced into a group of their own kind. In these groups, social learning between individuals helps the monkeys to improve their behavioural repertoires and portray more natural behaviours. Importantly, social groups are also a tremendous welfare improvement as compared to individual housing.

For those monkeys who are rehabilitated successfully, the ultimate goal is to be returned to the rainforest. In Rhoko Forest, 90km north of Calabar, CERCOPAN’s monkeys live in a one-hectare open forest enclosure where they are prepared for life in the wild. Ultimately, the monkeys are released into the community-protected forest. The restoration of the monkey populations in this area, which have been depleted due to hunting, is important for the regeneration of the forest as well as for the wellbeing of CERCOPAN’s animals.

Red-capped mangabey in Rhoko

Due to the scale of the illegal bushmeat trade combined with CERCOPAN’s successful education campaign, the demand for space at CERCOPAN is enormous. Currently, the primate rehabilitation facilities at Rhoko and Calabar are full. CERCOPAN plans to expand the facilities on a new site, building more enclosures and a larger education centre in the near future to meet this demand.


Conservation of primates is just as important as conservation of the rainforests they live in. In Nigeria, pressure on the forests is high – the country has lost more than 90% of its rainforests, and more than half of what remains is found within Cross River State. These forests, along with those in Southwest Cameroon, are collectively known as the “Cross River Rainforests”, and are regarded as one of Africa’s five forest biodiversity hotspots.

CERCOPAN recognises that local communities rely on the forest just as much as the monkeys do. For over a decade, CERCOPAN has a partnership with the local communities adjacent to the release forest, working with them towards sustainable forest exploitation. Through partnerships with local communities, CERCOPAN ensures the protection of almost 40,000 hectares of tropical rainforest.


Community forest

The people from the villages Iko Esai, Owai, and Agoi Ibami have stopped primate hunting and logging. In return, CERCOPAN provides boreholes, vaccinations, and training on alternative livelihoods and sustainable farming practices. CERCOPAN strives to ensure excellent community relations through a regular community newsletter and the employment of several staff dedicated to community development including a Community Programme Officer, Education Assistant and Small Scale Micro-enterprise advisor. In addition, most of our 36 Nigerian staff originates from the partner villages.

CERCOPAN is working with three main target groups in the communities; women, youths and hunters, helping them to earn an alternative income. These micro-enterprises include activities such as snail farming, bee keeping, bread making and basket weaving and are implemented at a very local, low cost level providing a source of food and income for the community. This partnership is key to ensure that both wildlife and local communities can reap the benefits of the rainforest for many years to come!

Bread baking training in Iko Esai


Education is an integral and vital part of our programme, both in rural and urban environments. Each term we conduct outreach programmes in over 50 schools and 2 universities. Conservation Clubs are functioning in 4 schools and 2 universities. CERCOPAN also has a Calabar-based conservation club since 2003 comprising of over 25 members. The group consists of highly motivated and interested students from secondary schools in Calabar. CERCOPAN receives over 20,000 visitors a year at Calabar and Rhoko. Depending on the age and understanding of the visitor, the goal is for visitors to take away a few simple messages about conservation and primates.

Educating the next generation

‘Laying’ the foundations for good health and family financial stability in rural Nigeria

CERCOPAN has worked in its host village of Iko Esai for 10 years but, as of 2010, we have also expanded our alternative livelihood community work to over 100 people in Agoi Ibami, a neighbouring village. One of the larger projects targeting women is poultry farming for egg production, which can be done effectively at household level.

Catherine with chicken coop.jpg

Caroline with her partially completed enclosure

Eggs are an excellent source of healthy protein which are difficult and expensive to buy at village levels due to the poor state of access roads to external markets. Local chicken breeds do not produce high quality eggs for consumption and so CERCOPAN, with funding from BNRCC (Building Nigeria’s Response to Climate Change), has provided assistance to 15 women in Agoi Ibami to purchase agricultural layers that can provide a long term source of income and household protein.

As no one had tried rearing agricultural chickens in rural areas before CERCOPAN’s community conservation manager (Rachel Hemingway) bought two chickens to determine whether they would thrive and lay on locally available foodstuffs. Happily Fatty, one of the chickens, has started to lay high quality eggs already that are being given out to women in the village to encourage this type of farming.


‘Fatty’ chicken, the experiment on locally available food

As with all our work CERCOPAN cannot continue to finance and expand the livelihoods programme without the generous support of individuals and groups from around the world, who we rely on entirely. Please visit our website for more information on how to support us. Also check out our facebook fan and cause pages for more pictures, downloads and updates.


Some of the children who will benefit from our expanded livelihood programme

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.

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 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!


CERCONEWS January edition out now!

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


Endangered Red Capped Mangabey rescued from appalling conditions

We were very pleased here at CERCOPAN to observe some positive responses to our education outreach program last week when, shortly after our Education Officer conducted an environmental education lesson, he received a call from one of the students who had seen a monkey being kept as a pet.  The school was new to our outreach program and this was the first time any student had received a lesson of this kind. The boy was extremely keen for us to rescue the monkey with all he had been taught about the problems keeping them as pets.  It can be hard to assess which tactics of CERCOPAN’s multi-dimensional approach make the most difference to our conservation cause, but this clearly showed that some of the messages in our educational outreach programme were being taken on board and changing attitudes.


The new Mangabey is very thin and malnourished and has bald patches all over his fur

Although the village was relatively close to our forest site, it was still quite a distance from our Calabar rehabilitation centre. Abakum, our Education Officer, initially travelled to the village on public transport to investigate the situation and plan the confiscation. He met our forest site Community Liaison and Education Officer there and the pair began searching for the monkey while calling the student who had given the information.  Sadly they discovered the student had travelled out of the village due to an emergency and, although he had hoped to get back in time, the afternoon quickly passed and our staff were forced to return home without any further information.

Determined to rescue this suffering indivudal, Abakum returned on his day off while visiting family close by as he hoped to at least gather some information on the whereabouts of the individual.  He finally located the house, with the help of the student, but the family had gone away to farm for a few days.  Frustrated yet again at not returning with the monkey, Abakum spoke to neighbours on the best time to catch the family at home and began planning a return.  It was on this trip that he discovered the monkey was a small mangabey who was kept outside on a harness when the family were at home and brought inside the house when the family was farming.  At least now we knew what we were expecting to bring home when we eventually did get a chance to talk to the family.


The new mangabey enjoying his new surroundings

Finally we had a successful trip when Abakum and Austin (our Vet Nurse) managed to meet the family at their home and negotiate the release of the monkey in to our care.  The mangabey was being kept in a room full of smoke where the family were processing cassava into the local food item garri, and our staff were particularly worried about how this would be affecting his health.

Eventually we secured the mangabey and he travelled back to our headquarters where he could be given the best possible care. Upon arrival he was examined, but it has been very difficult to determine his age as clearly malnourishment has severely stunted his growth.  There was not a dry eye amongst the bystanders watching when we released him into his new enclosure and he readily tucked into his food as though he had not eaten for days. Since arriving at CERCOPAN though his gentle nature is shining through; enjoying nothing more than a bowl of milk and a good groom from keepers, he is intrigued by all the other primates around. He is already a favourite amongst the staff and volunteers and I am sure he will be equally popular with others of his kind once he has passed his tests and can be introduced into a group.


 Our new friend tucking into some papaya