Category Archives: ecotourism

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

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!


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

Clyde’s ‘rearguard’ action on YouTube

Hi everyone, Zena here. Claire has been having difficulties signing on to the site (slow connection….!) so here I am. Over here in the UK I have been going through a lot of our video footage and putting together a few short films for youtube to publicize what we do – nothing like a moving image to give you a sense of what things are like for the team out in Nigeria! The latest one is the story of moving our first rescued mangabeys to the forest enclosure at rhoko (Sagan talked about this group and the research we are doing in an earlier blog – this is our future release group, and the focus of Sagan’s PhD next year).Clyde checking on his group behind him

Clyde checking on the rest of the tightly clumped group as he plays the ‘rearguard’ role

Four years later they are doing incredibly well in the 1 hectare forest environment, and the original 18 individuals have grown to over 40. Research carried out since the first day of their introduction ‘back to the forest’ indicates there little difference behaviourly between those born inside the forest enclosure and those wild born – a good indication for a successful reintroduction!

Matriarch Odudu enjoys some homage from low ranking Banja, deep inside the enclosure

Matriarch Odudu enjoys some grooming from low ranking Banja, deep inside the enclosure

Other videos recently uploaded also include one on our released mona monkeys, ecotourism and one of our first world environment day parades. You can see these on the CERCOPANHQ channel. Enjoy!

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]