The organization I work for is called Centre for Education, Rehabilitation & Conservation of Primates and Nature (CERCOPAN). Our mission statement is to conserve Nigeria’s primates through sustainable rainforest conservation, community partnerships, education, primate rehabilitation and research. We are registered as a charity (non-profit, non government organization [NGO]) in England and operate exclusively in Cross River State of southeast Nigeria. That’s the official shorthand version.
When people ask me what exactly I do in Nigeria I tell them that there is a “planet earth” like rainforest in Nigeria. The patch of rainforest has extremely high biodiversity especially concerning primate species. My organization was created with the focus of primate conservation though it has expanded to address the complexities of conservation in the developing world and the needs of the communities surrounding the rainforest. My job as the community conservation manager is to work with the communities that surround this forest area. The communities are extremely poor, isolated and underdeveloped villages. They depend on the forest for the majority of their needs and directly contribute to deforestation through their farming practices. I basically do a lot of capacity building such as creating community based groups, registering them with the government, providing computers and training, alternative livelihood projects(beekeeping, snail farming, piggery, etc) as well as being the primary liaison between the villages and my organization.
My organization has about 40 people working for it, six of which are foreigners. I am the only foreigner who lives in the village but I have about three others a quick 45 minute ride up the road into the forest at our research station. The research station, named Rhoko Camp, is located on the outskirts of the primary rainforest and contains a one hectare open air electric fence enclosure and a few other satellite cages to prepare the primates for reintroduction into the wild. There are also a few “huts” for tourists and a network of trails throughout the forest.
Our organization is based in Cross River State in the capital city of Calabar. Calabar is something like 400,00 people and is actually a great city, especially compared to a lot of the west African cities I have seen. Calabar is three hours from my village via motorcycle and bus. Our offices in Calabar have a lot of enclosures that house multiple species of monkeys with the aim of assimilating confiscated or donated monkeys into groups. A lot of times people will get monkeys as pets when they are young and then when they are older they no longer want them since they are indeed destructive and lack the ability to become trained at a level of a domestic housecat. There are also some bars that will keep a monkey on a leash for entertainment. Nigeria has a federal law from the 80’s that bans having monkeys as pets as well as capturing or killing monkeys.