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.
RESCUE AND REHABILITATION OF FOREST PRIMATES
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.
COMMUNITY-BASED FOREST CONSERVATION
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.
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