Category Archives: Education

Nigerian Students learn conservation skills at Rhoko Camp

An update from our Education Coordinator, Daniel Roper-Jones!

In July four students from the Nigerian CRUTECH University arrived at Rhoko Camp. After introducing myself as the Education Coordinator, I gave them a brief tour of their living quarters and cooking area, and introduced them to the other volunteers and researchers at camp. They told me they were participating in a forest management and conservation program with their university, and had been assigned to spend several months working with different conservation organisations in order to gain practical field skills. After several weeks working with Forestry Commission in Cross River National Park (CRNP), the students had joined up with CERCOPAN’s Education Officer Abakum Aidams Bassey, and came up to Rhoko Camp. Here they would spend several weeks learning about all the different things we do, and how we do them.

The students in the Education Centre

Under Abakum’s guidance, the students began. They worked with our keeper staff to learn about the challenges, importance, and skills needed to care for primates and conduct primate rehabilitation at an isolated forest camp. They accompanied our day and night patrol officers to learn about forest monitoring, protection of our core area, and how to conducted simple wildlife surveys. They worked with our research assistants on our monthly phenology study, honing their already quite comprehensive plant identification skills, and on our primate behavior studies where they learned how to use different behavioral data collection methods such as scan and focal follows.

During their last few days at camp I was free to take a more active role in their education. I spent several days training them on some of the most practical skills anyone can gain; orienteering, mapping, compass use, and GPS use. We spent the first day going over how to use a map and compass. These were new skills to them, and there was a bit of a learning curve before they were comfortable with the techniques. But they were highly enthusiastic to learn, and worked tirelessly until they were all comfortable shooting bearings, and transferring information between maps and the real world or real world and maps. We ended the first day by doing a number of compass challenges and mapping exercises, and I assigned them a small homework assignment to see if they had retained the things they had learned that day. They worked together and completed the assignment perfectly.

Daniel teaching the students invaluable skills

The next day was spent learning some of the practical uses of mapping and compass in conservation work. Using a compass and tape measure the students established a botanical plot of ten meters square, and practiced some of the skills they had learned during their time in CRNP such as plant identification and measuring the girth, height, and DBH (diameter at breast height) of all the trees within their plot. Then we used a map and GPS to set up a 50m transect, and practiced doing simple wildlife surveys along the line with the compass.

On the last day I led the students along our nature trail. The students took notes on all of the different things we usually talk about along the walk, and asked countless questions about the forest and the wildlife that lives here. We ended at the open-topped mangabey enclosure where we met Dr. Lisa Lane, our camp manager and research coordinator. There we practiced designing an ethogram for a behavioural study; a list of behaviours of interest along with their accompanying definition. The students all came up with many different behaviours they observed our monkeys engaging in.

It was a wonderful experience working with a group of young Nigerians so committed and interested in the field of conservation. They have now finished their time at Rhoko Camp, but will continue to work with Abakum at our primate sanctuary in Calabar, learning about sanctuary management and more details about caring for primates in captivity. I wish them all the best and hope they continue to work towards the protection of Cross River State’s incredible wildlife and forests.

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

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

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


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!

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.

Rainforest adventure for local children

Hi, I’m Carrie and I am just coming to the end of a six week stay as a short term volunteer at CERCOPAN. I am currently working on my PhD at the University of Florida focusing on Environmental Education and Primate Conservation and hope to come back for a much longer period next year as part of my studies. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Rhoko camp, but the definite highlight of my trip was working with the Rhoko education officer, Mike, and organizing an overnight stay for 12 members of the Iko Esai Conservation Club.


Conservation Club group

CERCOPAN has initiated the formation of over 20 conservation clubs in rural and urban schools; encouraging the youth of Nigeria to actively promote and participate in environmental campaigns and events such as the annual June 5th World Environment Day celebrations and tree planting programmes. This rainforest adventure however, gave the children a chance to experience the sights and sounds of the rainforest first hand and to gain a solid background to conservation and primate ecology…using the forest as their classroom!

Conservation club members learning about monkeys

The students were amazing and I was extremely impressed with their knowledge and their desire to learn more. Everyone was sad when the activities were over and it was time to leave, but all agreed they had a wonderful time and that we definitely do it again soon. CERCOPAN hopes to run such trips for conservation clubs from urban schools in the future, as some of these children have never seen the rainforest before.

It took a long time to persuade the children that this snake was plastic!

Special thanks to Jan Valkenberg (a former CERCOPAN volunteer) who raised the funds for this and other education activities. I would also like to thank the principle of Iko Esai secondary school for allowing the students to attend, Mr. Hans the science teacher, and the students themselves: Nkoyo, John, Promise, Patricia, Peace, Regard, Gabriel, Oboon, Uso, Redual, Erong, and Akima.

Hope you enjoy the photos!