Just as children and women are trafficked here in Nigeria, so are our close relatives- chimpanzees, baboons, and drill monkeys.
A three week old baboon stares up into my eyes and reaches his tiny hand out to touch my leg, then grab my hand, so much like a frightened baby that it brings tears to my eyes. We are driving from the Afi Drill Ranch four hours from the city of Calabar. His mother was shot a couple of weeks ago in the mountains by farmers. She had been stealing food, and she is a hefty prize for the worth of her meat to be sold on the market. And her small motherless baby has little meat on him, but he will fetch a remarkable price for the trade of animals as pets, ornaments, and eventually meat when he grows older. Luckily, the committed workers at the Afi Drill Ranch, situated on a wide rainforest spread near the border of Cameroon were alerted by locals to the orphaned baboon and rescued it.
The Afi Drill Ranch has been run for the past 17 years by a British couple in cooperation with the Nigerian government, designating the land as conservation land. The main focus of the project are drill monkeys, becoming fast extinct. Afi Ranch has six groups of drills, totaling over 210, and a group of chimpanzees. Most have been bred there at the ranch, starting 17 years ago when a sick baby drill was found in a cardboard box, but many have been rescued from trafficking. Some are held as exotic ornaments in small cages in hotel lobbies for visitors to gaze at. Some are kept and bred for meat, and others as personal pets in people’s back yards.
The baby baboon has been transported to the smaller ranch in the city of Calabar where a smaller operation is held with a small group of drills and orphans. Volunteers live there- now a couple from Holland, that will take in the baby baboon, care for it, and find an appropriate habitat for it. Unfortunately, the murder and trafficking of primates is rampant despite state laws. Afi Drill Ranch is a beautiful sanctuary for primates and humans alike. It is certainly for lover’s of nature- a small base camp to sit around a carved table with the staff and discuss primates or Nigerian politics, and either grounds for tent camping or a screened wood cabin with trees and wild life all around. The mountain views and the man made “canopy walk” with a rope trail strung between trees to get a chimpanzee’s view of the forest are well worth the drive from Calabar. The drills and chimpanzees are safe within their comfortable confines and frolic, eat, and mate happily.
To get involved, find out more information, or donate to the ranch which is always in need for funding to expand their work such as providing daily feedings, first rate medical care, rescuing of orphan primates, and conservation of the rainforest on the Nigerian/ Cameroonian border where they operate, email Liza Gadsby and her husband, Peter, who have been running the ranch and living in Calabar for the almost twenty years, at: *pandrillus AT earthlink DOT net.*
Posted By Jessica Sewall (Nigeria)
Posted Jul 6th, 2006