Learning to monitor the forest

Another blog from our Patrol Coordinator Chris Hamley!

 

Locally effective forest protection activities have many elements: environmental awareness, alternative livelihoods, strong governance and enforcement. Central to CERCOPANs approach to conservation in Cross River State is also to build the capacity of local communities to conserve and monitor forest biodiversity autonomously of external organisations.

We have assisted our partner communities (Iko Esai, Owai and Agoi Ibami) to establish surveillance teams that function as part of community conservation and development committees. These CBOs are mandated with working with CERCOPAN to design new development and livelihood projects, and regulate the use of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in their forested locality. Following expansion of surveillance teams from Iko Esai to Owai earlier in 2012 we have recently conducted a week long training exercise with Agoi Ibami community members.

Two individuals from Agoi Ibami, Etim and Sunday, accompanied CERCOPAN patrol officers (Lucky and Jerry) and myself (the NTFP Coordinator) for a patrol through the community forests. The aim was to identify what level their abilities were at, familiarise them with conservation concepts and the by-laws, and develop their skills in data collection and GPS use.

Lucky explaining how to collect information on shed use

Through my work here at CERCOPAN, I have focused a considerable amount of time on building the accuracy and usefulness of our community forest patrol data collection. We focus on recording information on NTFP activity, forest threats (e.g. logging and slash and burn farming), species presence and bushmeat offtake. Equipped with GPS units, we are also able to add a spatial component to the work, allowing us to identify the locations of new sheds, streams, illegal activity and species sightings on mapping software. It was the competent ability of our patrol officers that allowed myself to take a small step back and allow them to undertake a large part of the teaching required over the patrol.

On the first day, the patrol officers confidently took the lead to explain how they write on the data sheets and take GPS waypoints while following the correct protocols. Lucky also gave a short presentation on CERCOPAN, by-laws and forest threats using some awareness cards that we take to hunting sheds to show NTFP collectors. This was followed up by an evening of lively discussion on the benefits of forests to local communities, the impacts of hunting and logging, and the need of hunters to obtain meat to provide for their family. With Sunday being a hunter and Jerry an ex-hunter there were a number of interesting points raised that allowed us to argue the case for conservation.

Sunday, Lucky, Jerry and Etim

Over the following 3 days we gradually gave more responsibility to the surveillance team, who were more confidently writing and taking waypoints towards the end of the patrol. In total we trekked almost 40km over 4 days and conducted 8 hunting shed checks, we did not encounter any hunters because of the full moon (reduces catchability) but did meet 16 wild salad collectors. We also observed numerous blue duiker, an African buffalo and a group of putty-nosed monkeys.

It is now the intention that the newly trained Agoi Ibami surveillance team will take an independent patrol of their community forests to identify any threats, map hunting sheds and communicate the conservation message to their forest users.

Chris Hamley

If any readers want to support our remote area patrol team, we would gratefully appreciate donations of the following equipment:

  • Hennasy Hammocks (currently the patrol sleep on the floor of hunting sheds in often uncomfortable and exposed conditions, if we could have 2 hammocks our patrols would be far more flexible –we could stay in areas with no active sheds if need be, and the staff would be more motivated)
  • Trekking rucksacks
  • Bivi-mats
  • Weatherwriter
  • Waterproof field notebooks
  • (Rechargable) headtorches
  • Rechargable AA and AAA batteries (and charger)

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

Angelica

Angelica is one of our newest orphans, she arrived late August (see August 24th article). She is a female Red Eared Guenon, only found in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria.

She was found by rangers from Iko Esai’s surveillance team when they were patrolling the community forest. Angelica was tied to a hunting shed, but no hunter was around and her mother was nowhere to be seen – likely she has been killed for meat. The rangers brought Angelica back to our forest camp, Rhoko. There she was looked after by volunteers for a couple of days, and was sent to Calabar with the truck to receive proper medical attention and care. At first, she was hardly using her rear legs and we were afraid she might have a permanent injury, but this turned out not to be the case. She now uses her legs correctly.

Angelica, a few days after she was rescued

During the first days in Calabar, Angelica was very shy and needed a lot of attention. She had to be carried by someone (a substitute mother) at all times, and would start screaming and crying as soon as you would (try to) leave her alone! The only moments of rest for her caretaker was when she was asleep! After 5 days she became more confident and started to wander a few meters away on her own. After a week, a Mona guenon orphan was brought to us, Evie, and they were put together. Evie, being a bit bigger and extremely playful, was a bit “too much” for Angelica at first, as she did not like Evie’s jumping displays. Eventually, Evie understood that Angelica was not up for games, but only for cuddles! And they became very close friends. Actually, Angelica seems to have taken Evie as her new mother, clinging onto her belly the way baby monkeys do with their mothers. Her removal from her real mother has definitely traumatised her, and she is now panicking at the idea of losing her “second mother”, Evie. If we separate them even shortly, she will scream and will not stop calling and looking for Evie until they are reunited! She is a strong minded little monkey, she knows what she wants (whether it be Evie, or a hug from her!) and lets everybody around her know it too 🙂

Angelica (left) and Evie (right) cuddling

Hunters Workshop in Iko Esai

A blog by NTFP coordinator, Chris Hamley!

Targeting key groups in our partner communities to build trust and convey our conservation message is a key aspect of our work here on the edge of Cross River National Park. Many of our forest protection actions are closely linked with reducing pressure on forest biodiversity and eliminating the illegal hunting of primates and other species at high risk of extinction.

Hunters are a key community stakeholder group who have a disproportionally greater impact on biodiversity than other forest users. It is essential that these individuals have a good understanding of the state of biodiversity in the area, the conservation laws and the potential impacts of bushmeat hunting. Awareness raising has the power to change attitudes to resource use issues and often motivate changes in behaviour that lead to a greater willingness to accept conservation measures. We use it to work tangent with our other activities: protected area patrols, alternative livelihoods and governance strengthening to create a package of measures.

CERCOPAN recently hosted an awareness training programme with the Iko Esai hunters group. We aimed to build a better understanding of 1) CERCOPAN as an NGO and the work it conducts, 2) forest biodiversity and in particular primates, 3) the local conservation by-laws and 4) the Iko Esai Community Forest land use zoning system. Designed and implemented by our Education and Capacity Building Coordinator, Dan Roper-Jones, and Community Liaison Education and Outreach Officer, Mike Ekpe, the training was a considerable success with 27 participants, accompanied by our protected area patrol team and the Iko Esai CCDC surveillance team committee.

Key messages conveyed in the training were designed to overcome some of the local misunderstandings of conservation and demonstrate how no-take-areas can work to provide a “save-zone” where animals are free to reproduce and then replenish adjacent areas. This is the core concept used to build hunter support for the core area we work so hard to protect.

Many remote rural communities in developing nations have different cultural systems that shape the way they perceive nature. One of the central understandings of local people here is that animals can never go extinct and will be perpetually replaced, often expressed in pidgin as “finishing”. The workshop explained how many species have gone extinct in recent history, providing evidence that this can indeed happen.  This was followed by a description of the actions that hunters can take to reduce their impacts, follow conservation law and protect biodiversity for future generations.

The workshop closed in high spirits with an offering from CERCOPAN of a few small bottles of kai-kai (a local alcohol processed from palm wine) and a jerry can of palm wine, following in community traditions. We were even able to snap a great group photo before everyone headed home, enjoy!

Rent payment… check!

I am so pleased to share the news with you that, thanks to a very generous donation of a close CERCOPAN friend, we have now collected the remaining amount for our rent payment!

This means we have secured the homes of our monkeys for another year.

We would like to thank all of you who has supported us through these past weeks. We are very grateful to everyone who has made a donation, and to everyone who has supported us with kind messages and by sharing our plea for help with others.

We could not have done this without you!

Thank you IPPL!!!

Dear friends,
we have just received the great news that the International Primate Protection League (IPPL) provides US$3,000 towards our rent payment!

We received a grant from IPPL in January this year, and are very grateful for their additional help in this emergency situation.

Combined with donations we received from supporters on NWHS and Just Giving, this means we have now raised more than 1 million Naira (US$7,200) for our rent payment! Step by step, we are getting closer and closer… Thank you so much for our supporters, IPPL, and everyone else who is sending us positive thoughts.

If you still wish to make a contribution towards the final rent payment we still need to secure, please click on the ‘donate’ button on this Facebook Page (US tax deductible), or go to https://www.justgiving.com/cercopan (UK tax deductible).

Rent payment: some more time!

Dear friends of CERCOPAN,
your kind donations have bought us more time!
Over the weekend, we received more donations, and we reached the $500 mark which will be matched by a generous friend!

The total we have raised now is $3,850

This has given our landlord enough confidence to grant another extension for our rent payment! We are waiting for the official letter, but we expect he will give us until the end of the month.

Thank you everyone for your donations – we are so grateful for all the support we have received from so many people.

If you still wish to make a contribution towards the final $7,000 rent payment we still need to secure, please click on the ‘donate’ button on this Facebook Page (US tax deductible), or go to https://www.justgiving.com/cercopan (UK tax deductible).

Another rent update

Yesterday, a friend stopped by our centre with money he had raised amongst co-workers. This donation of Naira 23,000 (150 US$) will be matched by a generous donor, meaning CERCOPAN will receive 300 US$ for this one donation!

Thank you for these generous contributions, we are very grateful to the people that care so much.

This now brings our total funds raised to US$2,600.

If you donate now, your contribution will be matched also! We are trying to raise as much as we can over the weekend, as it will put us in a better position to re-negotiate the deadline for the payment of the remainder of the rent sum.

To make a donation, you can click on the ‘donate’ button on this Facebook Page (US tax deductible), or go to https://www.justgiving.com/cercopan (UK tax deductible).

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

 

 

We have so far raised US$2,300 for our rent payment.  Thank you so much for all of you that have donated and shared it amongst friends!

Please consider donating over the weekend, because on Monday we will negotiate again with the landlord and a larger down payment at that time, will put us in a better position to negotiate another extension!

Also, a generous friend will match your donations (up to $500)! That means if you give now, we will receive twice as much!!
To make your donation count double, give now: you can click on the ‘donate’ button on this Facebook Page (US tax deductible), or go to https://www.justgiving.com/cercopan (UK tax deductible)