Tag Archives: environmental education

‘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 www.cercopan.org 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 – Let’s Stand Together!

Wildlife Conservation Messages.jpg

With the globally recognised ‘Year of Biodiversity’ upon us CERCOPAN (Centre for Education, Research and Conservation Of Primates And Nature) has been preparing it’s annual environmental awareness rally based on this biodiversity theme. Every year we have organised the ‘mid-year Calabar festival’ as it has come to be known, with the help of international and local organisations and businesses including Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the Ministry of Environment, Cross River Forestry Commission, etc. With a different theme each year, this gives us and national environmental government agencies the chance to spread important environmental messages in a fun and colourful manner across the state!

Wildlife Our Heritage.jpg

With televised broadcasts and over 5000 children participating in previous years, CERCOPAN has covered topics such as ‘Bushmeat can be dangerous meat’, Don’t allow our forests to become empty’, and ‘Wildlife; our heritage’. School participation is one of the main methods we use to get children thinking more about the conservation messages we deliver during our year long outreach programme to over 50 secondary and 20 primary schools. Competitions are carried out and this year we have three: a cleanest school competition to help improve the surrounding areas of local schools; a drama competition where schools are filmed acting out a 15minute sketch based on this year’s theme (the top three will perform on the day); and finally, the favourite among schools, the carnival procession, where schools are judged on the creativity of the parade and its relationship to biodiversity. Competition winners receive prizes to support the expansion of the school and the purchase of new equipment to be used by the children.

School receiving prize at World Environment Day.jpg

Personally, I am very excited about the day. It is the grand finale of all of our years environmental education work and witnessing children who have grasped the conservation messages we have taught and have a newfound passion for conservation and wildlife gives our whole team a huge feeling of accomplishment. It is also an opportunity to attract media and political attention to the cause so that our conservation messages are spread even further afield and have greater impact.

World Environment Day 2009.jpg

If you feel passionately about the environment and would like to support this wonderful event, your donations are most welcome. As 2010 is the international year of Biodiverity we want, more than ever before, to make this a special day to remember!

Colourful World Environment Day costumes.jpg

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 www.cercopan.org 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!

Can you identify CERCOPAN’s rescued mystery bird?

By Sylvain Lemoine

Whilst CERCOPAN primarily aims to rescue and rehabilitate monkeys orphaned by the bush meat trade, on occasion other types of wildlife are brought in to CERCOPAN in need of our help….

On the 23rd of January I arrived at the office and noticed Abakum, our Education Officer, in an animated discussion with a man in our Education Centre. I overheard him explaining why wild animals don’t make good pets and so, assuming he was just giving the usual explanation about CERCOPAN’s mission, I carried on walking and entered the office. I barely had time to type a sentence however, when Abakum marched triumphantly into the office……brandishing a juvenile bird of prey!!!

Bird of prey sunbathing in it's new spacious enclosure

Bird of prey sunbathing in it's new spacious enclosure

The bird’s owner, ironically called ‘Wisdom’, had brought the bird to CERCOPAN hoping to sell it. He had taken the bird from the parents’ nest and had also tried to catch a second slightly larger individual but thankfully it had managed to fly away. Wisdom had taken care of the bird for a month, catching lizards and rats to feed it and consequently was looking to make a sizeable profit for his efforts. After a thorough explanation of the serious consequences of the animal trade from our education officer however, Wisdom freely and willingly handed the animal over, having realized the error of his ways.

Since arriving at CERCOPAN our new boarder is doing very well and tucking greedily into the dead rats and other meat we are providing daily. As hawks and other birds of prey are generally natural predators of monkeys, we have the bird completely separated from our primate residents. We will also gradually reduce the birds contact with humans over the coming weeks to un-domesticate it and once this process is complete, the bird will be released back into the wild.  We are still struggling to identify the bird as the color patterns on juveniles are highly variable, but we think it may possibly be an African Harrier Hawk. If any one out there can conclusively identify the bird we would love to hear from you!

Can you identify our mystery bird?

Can you identify our mystery bird?

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

Abused baby monkey leaves CERCOPAN staff deeply saddened

On Wednesday (14th October) despite doing everything we possibly could, we were unable to save a young male mona monkey brought to us at CERCOPAN.  This tiny mona arrived to us in a cardboard box, collapsed in a heap and shaking all over.  The man who brought him in said his brother had purchased the monkey that morning and it had been fine, but during the day it had become like this. As we continued to examine the mona, we found that he had a black eye, a wound on his upper lip, was dehydrated and highly disorientated.


A mona of similar size to the young male brought in
We questioned the man further, at which point he changed his story and said he had been like this when his brother made the purchase.  Realising we were going to get no closer to understanding the circumstances we carried the mona to our vet lab where our Vet Assistant, Austin, began trying to work out why the infant was shaking so severely, similarly to an epileptic fit.  We were mentally going through all the possible conditions that may have caused these symptoms.  The moment we took its temperature though we understood.  His temperature was 42?C (nearly 108?F). We quickly tried to cool him down,  gently wetting his fur and fanning him.  He was still ‘fitting’, a common side effect to such a high temperature, and we held his hands so he had something to hold on to and so that he felt comforted.  He was making small squeals, not like any normal vocalisation a healthy mona would make, and we could tell he was in a lot of pain.

We managed to get his temperature down to the normal level of 38 ?C and he started to reduce his shaking while becoming more aware of his surroundings.  Relieved that he was becoming more stable we started to look in to the next stage of treatment.  We made up a sugar/salt solution to begin to combat the dehydration and fed it to him with a syringe.  Sadly, not long after, the mona started taking another turn for the worse, this time in the opposite direction with his temperature dropping.

We quickly gave him a hot water bottle and wrapped him up in blankets.  He was beginning to shake again and his whimpering told us he was still in pain. Pandrillus vet Ainare did everything she could to save him but despite all of our best efforts he passed away.  We were all desperately sad but also at least relieved the poor infant was suffering no longer.  A post-mortem revealed massive trauma to the head, likely due to being hit with something or kicked.  All of the staff of CERCOPAN had tears in their eyes and were disgusted that anyone could do this to an animal.

Later that evening the brother, who had originally purchased the mona turned up at CERCOPAN to ‘collect’ his monkey.  We explained to him the circumstances of his death and that, even if the monkey had survived, it would not have been given back to him under any conditions, as is protocol at CERCOPAN.  We gave him  tour of CERCOPAN and spent a long time explaining to him why monkeys should not be kept as pets, and the legal implications of doing so under Nigerian law.  A sad day for all here, but it made us all more determined than ever to educate people about wildlife and to provide safe haven for all of the monkeys out there that so desperately need our help.

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!

A Personal Account Of This Year’s World Environment Day

Story by: Daniella Mancini
Pictures by: Sam Trull

It’s approaching dawn on Friday 5th June and my mind floats peacefully through a dream filled sea. Thoughts of the past few forest trekking, monkey feeding, bush researching days filled my mind as I lulled gently further into a restful sleep. Suddenly, amidst the bananas and mangabeys that have thus invaded my subconscious, the dulcet tune of Mozart’s 5th Symphony begins to resonate through the trees. That’s strange. I’m used to the sweet ticking of crickets and the mild hum of sand flies; I didn’t know there was a natural classical overtone in the wild too; my dreams must be playing tricks on me. The tune gets louder and louder and within just a few minutes the sound is inescapable….damn. It’s my alarm. I forgot. It’s 5am and time to drag my weary head out of bed to travel to Calabar for World Environment Day. This had better be worth it.

I should introduce myself for this all to make sense. My name is Daniella and I am a 19 year old British student staying here in Nigeria for two months as a volunteer for Cercopan. As someone who’s never been involved in conservation work before, I was advised by Rhoko’s manager, Richard, that World Environment Day would be a fantastic way to go and see firsthand just what conservation really means to the Nigerian people, particularly the Nigerian youth, of today. Eager to find out how Cercopan’s work reaches out to society, I was thrilled to accept the invitation. If only we didn’t have to leave so early. Like I said, I really hope this is worth it.

Three hours pass and before I know it we arrive at the cultural centre in Calabar where the day’s events were to take place. Still rather bleary eyed, I stumble out of the truck into a giant car park where, before I could even say ‘environmental awareness’, my tiredness was knocked out of me with the quickest of blows. Out in front of the truck was wave after wave of colour, hoards of children had grouped en masse dressed in the most fantastically imaginative costumes ready for a parade. The rhythmic pulse of a drum beat echoed around us and children danced like they had no other purpose in the world but to dance. They danced as though the rhythm of the drum had taken over their very soul, a dance that came from deep within and told the most extraordinary story. Culture, history and pride entwined and mingled into one unified expression, it was a breathtaking scene.

Girl dancing at carnival

Then the carnival began. Line after line of dancing troupes paraded around the streets of Calabar waving banners promoting the plight of Cercopan and the importance of being environmentally aware. The streets came to an absolute standstill as the masses of eager school children rhythmically processed around town. Above the drum of the instruments, poignant chants and messages could be heard. The air was electric, the atmosphere engulfing. You couldn’t help but be sucked into the excitement of it all. Heck, I even had a little dance and a chant myself. The procession lasted for the best part of an hour under the relentless heat of the Nigerian afternoon sun yet not even that could dampen the spirit of these passionate youths. As the sun rose higher, the children merely danced and cheered harder stopping only for a quick “snap, please” and then dancing off as I fumbled around rather pathetically with my camera. The whole parade really was the most exhilarating of scenes.

school performance

When the parade had ended we returned to the cultural centre where the children were to march back into the car park group by group and give a final performance in front of a panel of judges. I then realised that the schools were competing for the coveted, “Best in carnival” prize. One by one the schools marched back into the car park putting on theatrical and sometimes very traditional shows, body popping their way to the finish line and their reward – a much needed drink of water. Never in my life have I seen such impassioned young people, the sheer pride they had at representing their school was nothing short of inspirational and I was left in awe at their absolute determination. Coming second place was not an option; they were in it for the win. But more than that, these children were proud to be a part of World Environment Day. They were proud to spread the word of something they clearly felt was massively important. And it worked. The general public came out en masse to see what the parade was about and as such, Cercopan were able to deliver hundreds of information leaflets to those who may otherwise have been unreachable.

Signs with a message

After a small break the children were ushered into a large hall where a panel of Nigerian high rankers in the environmentalist world gave speeches educating the young people even further on the topic of environmental conservation. The children sat through each speech intently, understanding the absolute importance of, not only being educated in the importance of wildlife preservation themselves, but relaying that information to their elders and neighbours back home. It seemed Cercopan truly was spreading its conservational branches right into the very heart of society in the hope that this generation will be the catalyst of sustained change and development for the future.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more electrifying, Cercopan’s Acting Operations Manager, Jerry Akparawa announced it was time to declare the winners of the prizes: Best banner, Cleanest school and, the highly anticipated, Best in Carnival. Whilst I’m normally a bit of a sceptic on such things (a cynic, I’ve found, is a very British thing to be) there was no doubt in my mind that the awards Jerry had organised were perhaps what enthralled the children most. Even if I had tried I couldn’t have anticipated the reception the awards ceremony would achieve. Counting down in the normal fashion from 3rd to 1st, a number of awardees handed out the prizes, each time arousing the most fantastically euphoric roar of joy from the winning participants. As each winning school was announced the entire hall would erupt into a frenzy, the children jumped up and danced, the runners up offering equally hearty congratulatory cheers and dances in return. It was the most incredible sight. I realised at that moment that, so long as Cercopan and other conservation charities continue to target young people, there will be long and sustained change in the future. The young people I met during World Environment Day left me in no doubt that the mindfully active young Nigerians of today are receptive and ready to make changes and it is for this reason that the work Cercopan is doing with them right now, is undeniably essential.

girl reading cercopan brochure

Special mention absolutely must go to Cercopan’s Acting Operations Manager, Jerry Akparawa. The sheer scale of event he achieved this year on such a low budget was astounding and the impact that it will have made is colossal. Whilst events like World Environment Day must, I’m sure, be impossibly difficult to organise, he achieved an indisputable success. One which I’m sure will be the first stepping stone on a long journey of change for the young Nigerians of today.
Jerry dancing at carnival
So, after all my moaning in the morning, was it worth it? More than anything I’ve ever been involved in before. I was touched, moved, inspired and overwhelmed by what I saw on World Environment Day, not least at the thought that such a small charity as Cercopan could have achieved such giant things. Whilst it is true that no man can move an island, it also remains that when a group of people think big despite all the odds, the outcome can be more than anyone would have ever dreamed possible. It struck me on World Environment day that, if Cercopan did not exist, environmental conservation education in Cross River State would be drastically different.

It leaves me with nothing other than to say that World Environment Day was an incredulous success. The more charities like Cercopan reach out to the very core of communities as was done during this event, the more likely things are to change. If any potential volunteer is wondering whether to come out to Calabar and do some work with Cercopan I can’t encourage you enough. The work that this charity does is invaluable and, particularly after seeing Cercopan’s might in full force on World Environment Day, I am proud to be here now myself.

girls in costume

A smoother path to learning

Short term volunteers Sacha, Jan, Richard, Henk,
Rob, Jeanette and Ruud recently departed
Nigeria after three weeks of hard work.
The group arrived from Holland in early
February to assist CERCOPAN in a community
development initiative involving schools in
our host community, Iko Esai. The group
was well received by all and will be sorely
Men hard at work!
Most notable of their contributions was their work
with Iko Esai’s primary and secondary schools.
Before arriving they raised USD$1200 to be put
 towards the cost of renovating and sprucing up
the schools. In addition to their financial
contribution, they also offered their time
and effort to see the work through themselves.
 As mentioned in a previous blog entry,
part of the group painted the interior
 and exterior of Iko Esai Secondary School.
The other half of the group worked at the
Primary School, cementing the floors,
transforming the previously dirt flooring
into a more modern cement composition.
Thanks to the hard work and caring nature
of this group from Holland, a smoother path
to learning has been paved.


The completed flooring


Do you want to volunteer with CERCOPAN? Visit our website at

www.cercopan.org or email [email protected]



Farewell party