…Of Primate Concern

Posted: April 18, 2011 by CalabarBeckons in Uncategorized

Drill / Mandrillus leucophaeus

By Rosie Collayer

With only three percent of Nigeria’s rainforest remaining, the Afi Mountain Drill Ranch, a primate conservation centre, is not only critically-important in preventing the extinction of important species but offers wildlife lovers an unforgettable experience in the heart of Africa.
Located deep in the rainforest close to Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, the Afi Mountain Drill Ranch is the ultimate prize for intrepid explorers with a social conscience. The Ranch is home to over 250 drill monkeys and 28 chimpanzees. Their upkeep depends, in part, on the income generated by visitors. In return, visitors experience something truly unique in this region: waking up to the sound of chattering primates in their natural habitat.
Rustic wooden cabins set on stilts make for the perfect jungle hideout. A spacious balcony complete with locally made deck chairs provide a perfect vantage point to take in the lush scenery. Self-catering is the order of the day in a well-equipped kitchen and dinning area complete the gas hobs and filtered water. There is even a hot shower – a welcome luxury after an active day in nature.

The Ranch is the brain child of Peter Jenkins and Liza Gadsby, who two decades ago were passing through Nigeria on tourist visas. The mountainous forested landscape of Cross River State reminded them of their native state, Oregon in the USA. But it was their compassion for a drill monkey in distress that compelled them to stay and set up the Drill Rehabilitation and Breeding Center in a residential district of Calabar. Orphaned female drills, some recovered from as far away as Asia, subsequently gave birth to the centre. The group quickly grew to become the most successful captive drill breeding programme in the world.
The first groups of drill were flown by helicopter from Calabar to the Afi Mountain drill ranch 15 years ago. Today there are six solar-powered electric enclosures where five groups of drills and a group of chimpanzees live. Set in the heart of Nigeria’s last remaining virgin rain forest, the Ranch is the final stage of the drills into the wild. Cross River State together with southwest Cameroon and Bioko Island of Equatorial Guinea are the only places in the world where drills can be found in the wild.

Coming face-to-face to a drill is awe inspiring, they communicate with their long black faces with familiar expressions. Watching mothers interact with their young serves as a reminder of just how close humans and drills are in terms of DNA, about 94 percent. There are several new mothers at the Ranch who are watched over by a dominant male in a group. At 45 kilograms, a dominant male usually secures his place by intimidating other adult males who can be seen skulking around the periphery group. Female support is the most important factor to rise to the top.
Afi Mountain Drill Ranch is also home to a group of chimpanzees. They are our closest relative. By spending some time observing this group it becomes clear why. Their hand gestures are unnervingly human. Just Cross River State together with Southwest Cameroon and Bioko Island off Equatorial Guinea are the only places in the world where drills can be found in the wild.

For more information on the Drill Ranch;Visit:PANDRILLUS FOUNDATION


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