Tag Archives: rainforest

Spidermen in Rhoko!

Within the last month, Joe Brophy, a professional tree climber volunteering in Rhoko site, has trained one of CERCOPAN research assistant, Usor Arong, in climbing techniques.

Usor, who is from Iko Esai community and previously was a NTFP gatherer, is familiar with climbing trees but in a very traditional manner, escalading large climbers to access to upper branches in order to collect “Afang”, a local leaf used in many Nigerian recipes. Usor actually broke his leg few years ago from a fall after an unfortunate encounter with a snake at the top of a tree!

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Jo entering the tree platform

The techniques taught by Joe are quite different and safer, using ropes to access the various levels of any tree. But how to install a rope 30 metres high from the ground without taking any risk? This is where “Robin Hood” skills intervene. We are using a huge bow to send an arrow attached to a string above a large branch, then we just have to set a rope at the extremity of the string, pull the string until the rope passes over the branch, and fix the rope to a tree at the bottom.

Usor really enjoyed the bow but then lost a bit of his courage when he found himself for the first time sitting on a harness swinging on the rope 20 meters above the ground. Nevertheless, Usor managed to climb very well even on the first occasion. Several climbing sessions were then organized where Usor became more and more confident in this exercise. The most exciting moment for Usor was the ascent of the “tree-platform”, a metallic circular walkway installed 30 meters high around a massive tree trunk. The platform is one of the most popular attractions at Rhoko and gives a splendid view of the forest. Only a few indigenes of Iko Esai have ascended the tree to the platform and Usor was really proud of his performance.Jo + Usor climbing.JPG

Jo training Usor to Climb

Entertainment and fantastic views are not the only reason for climbing trees in Rhoko, the practice also allows the researchers to collect fruits, flowers and leaf samples from the canopy, as part of the long-term phenology study undertaken being undertaken in the Core Area.

Progress of the research and acquirement of new skills for our local staff is the perfect combination to fulfill CERCOPAN mission and to enhance our relationship with the surrounding communities. A big thank you to Joe for bringing his skills and enthusiasm to Rhoko and to Sherrilltree company for donating vital equipment.

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Usor wearing equipment donated by Sherrilltree

World Environment Day – Let’s Stand Together!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Jungle adventure Part 1.

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by Sylvain Lemoine, Mona Research Coordinator,

My work trekking all day in the rain-forest can already be rather extreme, so the idea of spending three days and three nights in the middle of the deep forest seemed like a big adventure.

During the weekend of the 11th of October 2009, I undertook a preliminary survey into the Research Area and adjacent Community Forest with Osam, one of our Rhoko Camp Patrol, an ex-hunter now converted to the CERCOPAN cause.  The aim of the trip was to map the existing trails, streams and rivers in the area and to gather information about human presence and disturbance, wildlife, and monkeys in particular.  The Research Area is an area of about 3000ha set aside for research into ecology, botany, zoology and geology, and it is contiguous to the Cross River National Park, Oban division.  Farming, logging and hunting of endangered species is not permitted in the research area, but the community forest is close to another communiy and is not patrolled by CERCOPAN. Previous surveys carried out in both areas have indicated the presence of forest elephants, buffalos, and chimpanzees among other mammal species such as mona and putty-nosed guenons.

The first day was rather uneventful in comparison to the ones that would follow; we spent all day trekking across easy trails and reached Agbor Iyamba, a hunter shed, without any problem.  With an evening cooking, resting and chatting about local beliefs, we passed the time before bed and then were lulled to sleep with the sounds of the forest.  Little did we know we had been lulled in to a false sense of security on what the days to follow would hold in store…….

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Osam preparing food in a hunting shed

The second day started interestingly since it took us 45 minutes to find the first trail to follow, with the junction being heavily obstructed by recent fallen trees.  It seemed that the trail wasn’t regularly walked, or only by a few ambitious hunters.  We followed it fairly easily when found, guided by Osam’s great memory and our sense of direction when the trail disappeared into impenetrable vegetation.  We trekked at a good pace, but stopped regularly to listen to the forest, trying to detect animal sounds and movement.  It was on these stops that we managed to see red duikers on two occasions.  The first one fled on our approach but the second we watched for several minutes, silhouetted by the river behind it whose noise kept us from being detected.  We continued our way across rivers and hills, occasionally following forest elephant trails unnervingly.

Elephant trails look like human trails and it can be very confusing for somebody unable to distinguish between them.  Elephant trails are often contiguous or mixed up with human trails and this encourages local people to beleive that powerful village chiefs can take elephant form when desired.  We could see elephant footprints, luckily a few months old, but still visible.  Following these paths we finally reached our first destination, a shed called Lokpui Iyura, named after the Lopkui river. Tracks of hunters were present, with pangolin scales scattered on the floor and a strong lingering odor of death, but the shed was empty.

We continued our exploration towards the East and eventually found a couple of fresh fruits on the ground.  Five minutes later, a noise in the branches attracted our attention and we stood and watched carefully while a single red-eared monkey moved away by jumping from crown to crown, then finally disappeared in to the vegetation.

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Red Eared Guenon

We were pressed on by the time since it was already close to 3pm, and the weather was starting to threaten rain.  We left without further investigation and eventually reached our furthest East destination; a shed called Ikpobokbai where we stayed just enough time to take a GPS point.  That was the moment the real adventures began…….

The rain arrived suddenly, falling in large drops that quickly flooded the soil and trails.  Our plan had been to complete a loop along Lokpui river and return to the previous nights shed, Agbor Iyamba, where we had left all our camping equipment.  We couldn’t go back by the same trails than we had used to arrive; otherwise it would have made the journey too long.  We took a short-cut across the hills, following a trail that Osam knew only from an explanation by another ex-hunter, since Osam had never been to this area before. This trail was easy to find at the start, but the more the rain fell, the more difficult it became to understand the logic of the path.  We lost the trail several times, but always found something that looked like it again.

We passed a large river running which was running quite fast due to the heavy storm and then clambered up the next hill….at that moment it finally dawned, we had been following another elephant trail!  We found elephant dung, one a few months old with its contained seeds starting to germinate, and another just a few weeks old alongside vegetation broken aside by the recent passage of this massive animal.  Osam kept reassuring me that the elephants were not around during this time of the year, due to the increase in human presence caused by more collectors of wild salad, but these fresh tracks made me increasingly dubious – with forest elephants being so aggressive, more so than savanna elephants, an encounter with one had not been on my wish list for this trip…….

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Elephant dung found on one of the trails

We followed the elephant trail for a while before Osam could find a decent human trail leading us to another river which was completely flooded.  We cut sticks to help to cross, and fought against the powers of the current.  Once on the other side, cold and wet, we couldn’t find the path and so we had to make a decision to follow the river.  I started to worry because we only had one more hour of light, and we were not sure of our position.  We crossed this stream again, climbed the hills on the other side, and reached yet another river.  All these streams were very confusing; I was never sure if we were following the same one as before. I tried to use the GPS to locate our position, but the bad weather didn’t allow anything technological to help in this wilderness.  We had to follow our common sense and our single compass. We passed several others torrents, climbed more hills, walked down into another river bed, and attempted to follow it but the water was just too powerful.  All the dust and earth from the forest drained into the river, making the water brown, so we couldn’t see the bottom and where we were able to step to reduce the possibility of being dragged downstream.  The night was falling fast, as well as the rain, and we were still looking for our way…

Long after the darkness had absorbed us into its hostile atmosphere, Osam finally recognized a junction between two streams.  We had actually been too far on the South and had crossed the major river without ever knowing it.  We then followed a small stream, walking through the centre of half-flooded areas of land.  Osam was using my head-light as he was in front of me, but this left me struggling with a wet torch-light.  Eventually, Osam stopped abruptly and stepped back: a green tree viper was coiled on the ground, waiting for any frog (or toe) to pass in close proximity……The nightmare of finding snakes in the forest at night got realized, and as we passed and continued downstream, the darkness seemed to get denser……..

Finally, after half-an-hour more trekking and zigzagging between hills and streams, we reached “home”.  It had taken us more than 5 hours to find our way, and we were completely wet and exhausted, but we were seriously relieved.  After all these efforts, the dilapidated shed appeared much more comfortable.  I figured out that we human beings only need shelter and a dry place around a warm fire.  The hot meal and deserved rest was very welcome and we slept well, even if a little more uneasily than the night before, anticipating the following day……….

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.

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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!

Follow CERCOPAN’s exploits on Twitter!

CERCOPAN is now on Twitter! Follow the daily exploits of Director Claire Coulson  (http://www.twitter.com/CERCOPANHQ) and Office and Finance Manager Sam Trull (http://www.twitter.com/CERCOPAN) as they work to save monkeys and rainforests in Nigeria.

Urgent appeal – Crisis Situation

It’s a sad fact that charities and organizations across the world are suffering the knock on effects of the global financial crisis. Donors are drying up and support from individuals is lessening as people look to solving problems closer to home. CERCOPAN tries not to rely on appeals of this nature but we have found ourselves unexpectedly forced into an extremely difficult situation. We have had to tighten our belts considerably in view of the fact that unrestricted funds for operating costs such as monkey food, enclosure repairs and utility bills are just not forthcoming at present.

We are still supported in educational and rural livelihood development projects, for example, but these funds are assigned to the activities the funding organizations have specified. Our desperation at this time is the need to find funds simply to continue our day to day operations so that we can honour these commitments and most importantly give the food and care that our rescued monkeys require. We have been cutting expenses in peripheral areas for some time now and have put all we can personally into making sure these demands are met, however, something can always tip the balance.

Yesterday we received a demand for the rent on the property where our Calabar office and education centre stand; in which we house all of the primates not currently in our forest based site. This annual rent has doubled without warning and is required to be paid by the end of next month. Unfortunately we have no right to appeal this increased demand; in the future we would have no such threat to our existence having agreed to move permanently to a free undeveloped site on the University of Calabar’s grounds. We have funding proposals out being considered at the moment to finance this move; but face an imminent and debilitating crisis if we cannot find the necessary money to keep us in place until then.

We are continuing to try exhaustively all avenues of funding we can hope to raise from here but we have reached a point where we need to ask our readers and supporters to help us if at all possible, through whatever means you may have at your disposal, to raise the funds required to continue our work in this difficult time.

Thank you from everyone at CERCOPAN for taking the time to read this.

Claire

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Baby Sclater’s guenon – CERCOPAN houses the only known captive Sclater’s guenons in the world.

Join our Facebook cause

CERCOPAN is now a Facebook Cause!

For those of you who are regular Facebook users, why not join ….

We hope to encourage informal discussion and to post regular news items on the facebook cause page as well as on the blog.  I hope to see you there!

Here is the link: http://apps.facebook.com/causes/308596/68398117?m=6987e7df

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Congratulations Peace!

All here at CERCOPAN would like to congratulate Peace on the birth of her healthy little baby!  Peace’s infant was born two days ago, and while this is Peace’s first child and she still has a lot to learn, each day she grows more comfortable with her motherly duties.  Born just a few weeks earlier, Mercy’s baby boy is growing quite rapidly and it won’t be long before these two young managbeys are causing trouble together!    Stay tuned for more updates and pictures on this adorable and lively group of monkeys.

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Thanks Christine, Brenton and Brigitta!

Everyone here at CERCOPAN would like to send a sincere thanks to Christine, Brenton and Brigitta for their recent donations.  Thoughtful people like you, keep CERCOPAN running.  Every dollar counts and helps us to care for each of our monkeys, especially by keeping them fed.  As you can see, they really do appreciate it!  As always, please stay posted for more updates and pictures.

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