Tag Archives: Nigerian wildlife

Environmentally friendly litter

CERCOPAN has yet more exciting new additions to the growing family of pigs in Iko Esai village with the birth of four more healthy babies to our newly acquired female ‘Punch’. This project is proving to be an excellent flagship for our efforts toward alternative livelihoods in the communities surrounding Cross River National Park. Alternative sustainable livelihoods are a vital part of our larger goal to reduce reliance upon the dwindling rainforest resources and increase the financial and physical health of people in the area.

New baby pigs.jpg

The newest babies at 2 days old

The Iko Esai Ubhena farm co-operative made further improvements to the pig sty facilities to prepare for the babies, adding a new extended roof and cementing the floor of the ‘nursery’ to ensure the best possible welfare conditions for the piglets. The group is planning to develop a good breeding stock of females before commercial sales begin to ensure a constant and sustainable supply of protein for the village.

As with all CERCOPAN’s efforts, this project and others like it are only possible with the support of generous individuals and organisations around the world. CERCOPAN is entirely non-profit making and is managed by a dedicated core of international volunteers in conjunction with our fantastic Nigerian staff. If you wish to help us to continue touching lives please visit our website and donate today . Find us at www.cercopan.org or follow us on our facebook fan and cause pages.

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!

February CERCONEWS out now!

Finally the February edition of CERCONEWS is available!

Follow this link to download your copy today!



Pica, our cute baby mangabey, proving herself one tough cookie!

Back in June Peace, a female mangabey from Callistus’ group, had her first ever infant, Pica.  Pica, a beautiful baby girl, arrived just 2 weeks after the birth of Marvelous; a bouncing baby boy, born to Mercy.  As Peace’s first infant, she was rather unsure how to look after Pica and seemed confused as to what her motherly duties involved.  As the first few weeks passed, her mothering instincts began to develop and improved somewhat, but unfortunately, as we carefully observed the pair we could see that Peace was still not fulfilling some of the important jobs she needed to do.


Peace and Pica: at times her mothering instinct kicked in. 

Peace easily lost interest in Pica, and so Pica spent a lot of her time riding around on the back of her older brother, Marley.  These two got on famously and Marley was always there to lend a helping brotherly hand!  She really enjoyed playing with him and he enjoyed playing with her, unless he wanted to play-fight with some of his older friends!  When Marley was not around though and Peace wasn’t interested, we had the problem that, in this prolonged wet season we are experiencing here in Cross River State, Nigeria, there was no-one to shelter Pica from the elements.  Being so small she felt the cold easily and when there was no-one to cuddle up to when she was wet, the staff at CERCOPAN began to worry.  In addition to this we had noticed that Pica was not putting on weight like Marvelous, who was only 2 weeks older.  As we continued to pay close attention to Peace and Pica’s relationship, and the nursing behaviour of the pair, we eventually came to the conclusion that the best course of action was to remove Pica from the group and hand-rear her until she was strong enough to return.  It was a tough decision and always a last resort here at CERCOPAN.

  Despite the vast experience CERCOPAN volunteers have in hand-rearing rescued, orphaned infant monkeys, Pica proved to be somewhat more difficult.  Never before had we had the problem of the mother still being in the vicinity and in ear-shot of the infant.  Pica refused to eat while she could hear her mother, and the two were continually trying to communicate with each other.  Our best option was to take Pica to our volunteer living-quarters two doors down the road and here she became much more settled.  Now she is a happy little monkey who loves lots of attention when she’s fed. She runs around the room where her travel box is being kept, climbing and jumping off the furniture.  She is putting on plenty of weight and we are really happy with the progress she is making.  We can’t wait for the time when we can reunite her with her mother, her brother and the other members of her group.

By Amy Baxter, Mangabey Research Coordinator, temporary Finance and Office Manager

Photographs by Sam Trull

 Pica after she has rolled in mud or food!

Pica, after having rolled in either mud or food!

One step closer to Security for CERCOPAN monkeys

So many of you have contacted me asking how the appeal is going and how much we have left to raise. Although there is still a way to go, I am happy to tell you that thanks to the generosity of Wildlife direct readers…. we now have $1395 of the $3333 we must find in order to pay our rent by September 1st! We are almost half way there and it really is down to all of you…your help could not have come at a better time.

Once again, I must say a huge thank you to everyone who has given their support so far and to Jennifer S, Karen M, Kristine K, Brigitta S, Carol Z, Mary H all of whom have recently given to our appeal. Every donation brings us closer to our target and we are really starting to feel like we may get there in time!

For those of you following Ikom and Okon’s progress, I also have fantastic news! Both babies returned to their groups today in full health. As you can see below..they are already fitting back in very nicely with their families 🙂

Okon being groomed moments after entering the group



Austin and Joshua opening the encosure to return Ikom to his family


Ikom clearly relaxed back with his friends

Eve the otter and CERCOPAN merchandise now available!

Eve the otter, adorable monkey and other CERCOPAN merchandise now available at http://www.cafepress.com/cercopan .
Great as gifts, even better for yourself! All proceeds go towards helping the animals in our care.





Concern for mona babies, as Ikom and Okon also fall sick

After losing lovable mona Scoopy only a day ago, baby Mona’s Ikom and Okon have now fallen sick with the same condition. My heart sank when Austin our veterinary assistant came into the office to relay the news. I ran out to their enclosures heart pounding, half expecting to find them in the same state I found Scoop. To my relief, they were still moving around and although clearly unwell, I knew they had a chance.  

We immediately removed the babies from the enclosure, administered drugs and put them together in a huge travel box in the vet lab with a hot water bottle and plenty of comfort food. The illness they have is a syndrome which appears to be particular to monas. As this species is rare in captivity, no-one really knows very much about them at all. Whilst we are not yet  sure what causes it, we have some theories and have experts around the world helping us to figure it out. We also now have a committment from Cambridge Veterinary School to help us find an answer.

We originally thought that the problem may be nutritional, some tiny trace element that may be missing from the diet.  Rainforests provide an enormous variety of leaves and insects which are impossible to replicate in captivity, but we really do try our very best. The monkeys in our care are given over 60 different types of food; including fruit, fish, seeds, nuts, boiled eggs, rice and beans, special leaves collected by staff and our own invention ‘monkey cake’, which is packed full of nutritional ingredients such as eggs, oats and crayfish. 

Ikom and Okon will now be cared for by our volunteers night and day and will be showered with all of the care and attention we can possibly offer. Mona’s when they are sick crave lots of TLC and the more they have, the quicker they seem to recover! Whenever Im sick, I feel the same and like a bit of sympathy so I know where they are coming from!

I will keep you all posted on any news as it happens…


Baby mona’s Ikon and Ikom comforting one another  in their travel box

New Office and Finance Manager at CERCOPAN

After fourteen great months, our Office and Finance Manager Kristine Krynitzki has decided to leave CERCOPAN and set off for pastures new. Although extremely sad to see Kris go, we wish her every luck as she begins the next chapter of her career, with plans of returning to university to begin studying environmental law in her home country, Canada.

The task of finding a replacement for such a valued member of staff has been a long and difficult process; however we are pleased to announce the appointment of our brand new Office and Finance manager, Sam Trull.

Sam, aged 28, has already had a long and established career within the field of primate conservation. With over twelve years of experience under her belt and an overwhelming passion for the cause, Sam was the perfect candidate for the job. Beginning work aged 16 at The Duke Lemur Centre in North Carolina, she progressed to the post of Primate Technician and Enrichment Co-ordinator while finishing her undergraduate study of Zoology and Anthropology in her home state. Wishing to advance from this point, more specifically as a primatologist, Sam began a post grad study in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes the following year.

Academic accomplishments aside, Sam has also participated in field research prior to arriving at CERCOPAN. Her first experience was in the Bahamas working on a team studying the Bahama parrot during March 2007. Sam then went on to carry out a pilot study surveying for aye-ayes in Betampona Reserve in Madagascar just 6 months later in the fall of 2007.

According to Sam, working for CERCOPAN is the next step in her career as a primate conservationist and she is delighted to have been given the opportunity,

“I’m thrilled to be working with an in-situ conservation project like CERCOPAN. I think the combination of primate rehabilitation, community education, research and forest preservation is a great multi-faceted approach to addressing conservation issues in Nigeria.”

Sam is due to stay at CERCOPAN for a year and, just three weeks into her stay, is already well on the way to being a fully trained CERCOPAN Office and Finance Manager. We wish both Kris and Sam lots of luck for the future.

Sam with new orphaned baby putty

Urgently required Volunteer and Ecotourism Coordinator

CERCOPAN (Centre for Education, Research and Conservation of Primates and Nature: www.cercopan.org) is recruiting for a Volunteer and Ecotourism Coordinator to start in May /June 2009. This voluntary position is based at Rhoko, our bush site where we help the Iko Esai community to protect 2400ha of tropical rainforest. The site is home to 60 semi-free ranging forest monkeys, and an array of wildlife including pangolins, wild putty nosed guenons, Mona monkeys, bushbabies, duikers, golden cats and drills.

We are looking for a flexible, sociable, team-player with previous experience managing volunteers. The ideal candidate will be a people person, good at multi-tasking with strong leadership and communication skills. They must also have the ability to cope well under stress and live happily in basic but comfortable forest living conditions.

Duties include:

– Supervising all volunteers and visitors (meet and greet, preparing itineraries, menus, arranging logistics, supervising projects\research tasks, ensuring appropriate staff available, acting as point of contact etc.)

– Financial management of volunteer/tourism budget

– Training/ capacity building for staff involved in tourism (e.g. preparation of meals and accommodation, guided walk training, management of the community centre visitor centre by community members etc.)

– Preparing proposals for eco-tourism development

– Developing and implementing a national advertising strategy for tourism at Rhoko

– Ensuring all volunteer and tourism materials are constantly updated

– Tourism/ Volunteering related PR   

– Undertaking research, collecting data and assisting with camp management when cover is required.



– Experience managing volunteers

– First Aid certificate or equivalent experience

– University educated, first degree

– Interest in Conservation/Primates

– Physically fit

– Good communication skills

– 4 wheel driving experience (or willingness to take four wheel driving course in UK)


– Work experience in conservation

– Work experience with NGO                     

– Research experience

– Climbing (tree) experience

– Swimming/life saving skills

– Masters in conservation, biology, ecology, zoology, tourism

Provisions: Room and board will be provided for an initial 1 year contract. All flights, visa arrangements, insurance etc. are the responsibility of the volunteer.

Please send covering letter, references (preferably email contact) and CV to [email protected]

For further information, please see the CERCOPAN website www.cercopan.org and blog http://cercopan.wildlifedirect.org/

A new cat in town

by Richard Carroll, Rhoko Manager,

One of the joys of living in the centre of the forest is that, amongst all the hardships, you are often privy to sights and experiences you would normally only find by tuning into a nature documentary channel. Perhaps it is the fact that it isn’t such an easy and predictable task as that, which makes those moments all the more special even when they are only fleeting. It would seem that our forest conservation site is home to one more mysterious and beautiful inhabitant that we were previously unaware of. Stealing its way through the trees and undergrowth; offering little more, for the most part, than glimpses of its sleek and athletic form, is Rhoko’s secretive resident feline- the African Golden Cat.


African Golden Cat

The African Golden Cat (Felis auratus) is described as a powerful cat with evenly proportioned limbs, a relatively heavy build with black backed ears. Sizes, tail lengths and even colouration and coat pattern are described as variable but generally accepted as a reddish golden colour or smoky grey. The pale coloured underside is always spotted but differences in the patterns over the rest of the body occur in a seemingly geographical split. Individuals in the east of Africa are generally less spotted than those further west in the range, which spreads through central Africa from Sierra Leone to parts of Tanzania. The pattern of the spots ranges from fine freckles to large rosettes and from faint to bold. Captive animals are reported to have even changed colouration from red to grey and vice versa, it has been proposed that this also may occur in the wild. They are described as living mostly in lowland forest zones and feeding on rats, hyraxes, duikers and guinea fowl amongst other animals. The adaptations in its body suggest that it is accustomed to bringing down fairly powerful prey animals such as the red duiker, the golden cat itself can reach a head to tail length of 1.5m (1m head and body) and a weight of 18kg. There is little known about its other habits and social life though it is believed to follow regular routines and have a fairly small home range. The African golden cat is considered rare to vulnerable in its ecological status.

It has been nearly two years since my first encounter with what I suspected to be this enigmatic hunting cat. At the time, however, it was entirely unexpected and not a sighting of sufficient quality to make what felt like such an audacious claim. I was driving the 4WD vehicle down Camp Trail towards our education centre as night fell, delivering extra kerosene to our security personnel. Upon rounding the corner I was stunned to find directly in front of me, illuminated in the headlights, the fleeing hindquarters of what I felt was unmistakeably a wild cat. I say unmistakeably and must qualify that by saying I had spent over 12 months in recent years walking all day behind pumas and was fairly well acquainted with the back end of a feline! I had time to note the short fur covering the body and a long more heavily furred tail with a rounded tip and a ringed pattern. The markings at the base of the tail appeared to be a series of spots which extended over the hind quarters either side of the spine. The general colour appeared to be black or charcoal and a lighter shade of grey; unfortunately I was unable to see the head and forequarters of the animal before it broke back through the foliage and into the safety of the core area.

A few months later I was to be similarly excited and frustrated in equal measure when I stumbled across an unexpected visitor, but this time in main camp. I was just on my way back to my sleeping hut when my torch light caught the unmistakeable glimmer of eyeshine being reflected back at me from the bushes. ‘Eyeshine’ is the term given to the phenomenon of light being reflected back from the specialised cells coating the retinas of nocturnal animals’ eyes. The first thought which struck me was that it could be a duiker or perhaps some other larger mammal, until it moved. The pale green eyes reflecting back at me glided over the logs and fallen trees in the undergrowth and though, frustratingly, I could not discern enough detail of the body shape with my fading LED torchlight the movement could only be described as catlike. Yet the distance between the eyes and the height from the ground marked the intruder as being much larger than a genet or similar nocturnal predator. Despite my best efforts I was unable to see much more than this and had to chalk the experience up to another potential sighting without a definite confirmation.

 Again a few months passed before I was approached by a visiting overnight tourist who asked me quizzically one morning “do you know if you have African golden cat here?” “Interesting that you should ask” I replied; “why?” “Because I think I saw one last night.” It seems that on his way up the path from the tourist accommodation huts to the toilet he had seen a large cat cross in front of him at the edge of the glare thrown by his kerosene lantern. Though he had not had time to see it in detail, his first impression had been of a dog sized feline, of which the African golden cat is the only option in this area. I related to him my previous experiences and allowed his sighting to join the growing number of potential encounters.

In November of last year a separate sighting was made by one of our patrolmen, Osam. Coming back from the forest one afternoon he excitedly claimed to have seen ‘leopard’ in the forest and reported this to Lisa. Lisa promptly showed him a picture of a leopard from the field guide book, to which he replied that it was like that but not with so many spots and the body was red. Without any prompting he was able to pick out a picture of the golden cat and confirm that this was what he had seen. The sighting was unusual in that he had come across the cat in the mid afternoon within the core area and had seen it clearly in daylight. His description of the size and coloration all fitted precisely with what was expected for the golden cat and as with the visitor’s previous sighting was a spontaneous report as we had never indicated to any person or staff that we thought we may have this species present in the area. Osam, when asked, said that he had seen this type of cat before; many years ago when he was still hunting prior to his employment with CERCOPAN, but only in the research area far from where is currently now the core area. Disconcertingly he added, with a look of distaste, that the meat was rather tough and not good for eating.

 I myself was finally able to satisfy my own desire on this matter on January 1st 2009. After climbing down from the fallen tree from where we are able to make mobile phone calls, I was walking back to the education centre when the golden cat broke from the bushes to my left about 15m ahead of me and crossed the road before disappearing into the undergrowth to the right. For a fraction of a second, my mind and heart leapt and having perceive just the red colouration and long tail from my peripheral vision I thought ‘mangabey escape!’ . The prick of adrenaline was short lived however, being replaced by a smile and the sensation of blessed satisfaction as I witnessed clearly for the first time the African golden cat right in front of my eyes. It was a wonderful start to the year, but I am still holding out for the chance to see even more.


Chief Patrick at the Community Centre 

The clearest sighting yet has been made since, by the oldest member of staff Chief Patrick; a skilled hunter in his younger days. I was telling him about my experience as we both sat at the education centre a few weeks later. I had hardly begun my tale simply mentioning that I had seen a cat here two weeks before, when he interrupted me to say that he had seen it 3 nights ago. “Really?” I asked him, “yes this one.. cat but big like dog; red all over but here” indicating his belly, “here it is white but with ‘bok, bok bok’.” With each softly explosive ‘bok’ he had pecked at the air with his hand to imitate the rosette pattern of the underside. His keen hunter’s eyes had picked out a detailed text book description of the golden cat’s pelage. He proceeded to tell me how the cat had appeared from the very place I had been about to describe to him in my sighting, and had walked to the front of the education centre where he was sat; stopping for a few moments apparently intrigued by the illumination from the lantern hanging by the entrance. Patrick had remained still waiting for it to pass by the side wall before collecting his torch and quietly creeping to the other side of the wooden building. Once there he shone the torch on the visitor and there they stood man and cat connected by a beam of light in silent contemplation of each other. After some time and seemingly unperturbed the golden cat turned and carried on its way along camp trail and into the shadows of the core area forest. Though I envy Chief Patrick his extended encounter, I can still take a great deal of pleasure from the few brief meetings I have had with this beautiful creature. It gives me a sense of pleasure to know that as I fall asleep to the deafening chorus of tree hyraxes, owls and cicadas there is another more silent denizen of the forest prowling somewhere close by; leaving me to feel honoured to be sharing their realm.