Tag Archives: volunteers

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!

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!

CERCOPAN’s rescued bush dog in full health and shaking visitor’s hands!

  As many of you may remember, a few months back we rescued a bush dog, Ticky, from appalling conditions in our host village Iko Esai.  She was found under a broken umbrella in the pouring rain, covered in sores and being home for a vast number of parasites including ticks, fleas and worms.  She was too weak to even stand and we discovered the reason was because she had been removed from her mother before she was ready to finish nursing.  Sylvain, our mona research coordinator, gently carried her back to our camp along the difficult 30 minute bike journey, through flooded rivers and with thunder crashing around our ears.  It was there we began to nurse her back to health and she started her Ticky being nursed on her first evening at Rhoko camp after being rescuednew life as our camp mascot, surrounded by love and care.

Ticky being nursed on her first night at Rhoko Camp, after ger initial rescue 

 In our last ‘rescued dog’ update we announced she was firmly on the road to recovery and we are pleased to say she has now finally reached her destination!   Her patchy fur has fully grown back and all her wounds are healed.  She has put on plenty of weight, with a big belly hanging around her spindly little legs!  Her true character is shining through and she is excelling at her guard dog duties, taking her cue from our older camp dog, Simon.  Perhaps her bark isn’t quite as threatening as Simon’s, with its squeaky tones intermingled with low growls, but she is always on the lookout for passers-by.

  Her strength has grown even more and now she runs around camp, following us to our huts and playing with us in the grass.  She still tries to play with our older dog, Simon, but he has decided he’s a bit too old for these games and tries to find a quite spot where he can continue to be a grumpy old man.  I think he also gets jealous, as he’s a big dog and is unable to climb onto anything comfortable like a chair (although he was caught having pushed into Sylvain’s hut and asleep on his bed once)!  Ticky, on the other hand, has found one of our cushioned chairs particularly comfortable, and has become an expert at climbing up various small boxes to get on to it!

  Ticky without her patches and chewing on volunteer clothes!

Ticky; patch-free and chewing the clothes of our volunteer, Sylvain.

The other week our camp manager, Richard, bought back some tasty treats from the city for our guarding duo in the form of two large bones.  Both are nearly as long as Ticky herself and she struggles to get a good bite with her small mouth.  For some reason though, which ever bone she is gnawing on is not as tasty as the one Simon is chewing, and so she always tries to muscle in on his!  He’s not too pleased about this but is showing more tolerance as the days go by!

CERCOPAN rescued bushdog, Ticky, with her new bone the same length as her!

Ticky trying to get her little mouth around such a big tasty treat! 

  In addition, we have begun general training with her.  She understands ‘sit’ even if she doesn’t always follow the order, and we are trying to teach her ‘stay’, as she regularly tries to follow us in to the forest.  Our favourite one though, and I think hers is ‘paw’, where she lifts up her paw to shake hands.  Perhaps not as practical as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’, but much cuter and it is becoming a very popular welcome with our visiting tourists!

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

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.


Thank you very much!

A big thank you to Phillip, Brigitta and Wanda for your kind donations. Brigitta and Wanda, your donations have been used to feed and care for a new baby red eared guenon called Jerry who has just arrived with us. I will post some pictures of him for you over the next couple of days. Phillip, here are some photographs of Bella, she is still living alone as there have been no suitable babies to place her with, but new orphan Jerry is almost through his preliminary quarantine tests and will be placed with her very soon. Check back later in the week to see how they get on…..




Phase 1 – Complete!

CERCOPAN has recently undertaken to build a community centre for our host community Iko Esai, thanks to the funding support from Esso (Exxonmobil). Over the last two months CERCOPAN staff and volunteers have been working very hard with the help of some contractors and local labourers to get this project off the ground. Last week we finished phase 1, the preliminaries including clearing the land, pegging the site, building a storage shed, and moulding the first hundred and fifty bags of cement into blocks for the foundation. Amazing how much work goes into constructing a building!


Completed Storage Shed

Just to mould one bag of cement into blocks requires a lot more effort than one might think! First we had to visit a number of dealers to purchase cement, sand and related tools and to bargain with truck owners to transport the goods to site (not easy when trying to stick to a budget and prices are increasing weekly). Negotiations broke down three times, dates were changed, we were even forced to carry 600 bags of cement into the volunteer house to save money when we discovered prices were about to go up and it was too early to transport them to site (if stored too long in the humid conditions at site the cement becomes hard). Then the Rhoko Manager needed to garner community support to help carry local sand, gravel and water to the site and to coordinate accommodation and transportation for the few non-local workers. This involved writing an article for the noticeboard, attending a chiefs meeting and enlisting the services of the Iko Esai town crier. Finally there was the actual hiring of block moulders and then the moulding, drying, stacking and watering of the blocks!  comm-centre-truck-sand.jpg

Packing and transporting sand from the river


Offloading sand at site

Now that the first 4000 blocks are ready, we have begun phase 2: excavation and laying the foundation. Stay tuned for regular updates of our progress!


Stacking the moulded blocks

Thanks so much Brigitta and Wanda!

Thanks once again for your donations Brigitta and Wanda, as ever they have been put to good use. Your particular donations have been directed towards helping to  rehabilitate putty nose baby “Emma”, who has been ill with internal parasites.  Since her arrival she has struggled with this problem on numerous occasions, but after keeping her in the office, giving her some serious TLC, trying different medication and feeding her up… she is finally looking healthy again!


Emma can’t get enough of her favourite food…Water melon!

La Bella vida

As a rule, the orphan monkeys brought into our rehabilitation centre will have originated no further than 50 miles from Calabar, in the forests of Cross River State. But Bella, our latest recruit, travelled 500 miles to get here, and came in by plane! And it was our Blog that triggered booking her ticket. If you take a quick look at a map of Nigeria, you can find Calabar tucked away in the South-Eastern corner, close to the Cameroon border. In the South-Western corner you can’t miss Lagos, and then a little further West you will find Badagry, the last coastal town before the Benin border. Bella was seen being walked on a string  nearby Badagry by a keen conservationist and animal lover (Phillip) who works in the area.


Phillip saying goodbye to Bella

He made the decision to take her into his home, not yet sure how to resolve the issue of her long-term care. Recognising her as a young female Mona monkey, Phillip surfed the internet for any possibility of being able to place her into expert hands. He came across our Blog and posted a message asking if we could take her in. Regardless of the distance involved, we pride ourselves in offering sanctuary to any displaced Nigerian forest monkey. So we immediately started to make plans for her journey to Calabar.  By good fortune, our Mona expert, Sylvain, was due back into Nigeria shortly, spending a night in Lagos. So we had Bella collected from Badagry by car to coincide with the evening of his arrival. After a brief excursion to check out the curtains in the flat, Bella was settled down by Sylvain for a good night’s rest in preparation for the flight ahead. 


Bella in the flat in Lagos

Armed with a fit-to-fly vet’s certificate, and a dog travel box, Sylvain was allowed by the airline to supervise her loading onto the plane. Although a little shaken up by the one-hour plane ride, Bella arrived happily to her new home in Calabar safe and sound. She is already loving her surroundings, with the regular warm milk and variety of foods, and the interesting surroundings of her own kind.


Sylvain loading Bella onto the plane

Bella has taken very well to joining the CERCOPAN fold, already best friends with the two neighbouring Monas. Despite the short time they have been together, they are already very taken with Bella, grooming her through the mesh and cuddling next to her, sharing in the warmth of their closeness.  

It’s a happy beginning to a new way of life for Bella – La Bella Vida!


Bella making friends