Nigeria: CERCOPAN protects monkeys, advocates for forest

Nigerians strange taste for primates as a source for animal protein is
already making a hollow mark on the ecosystem. Monkeys, according to
experts, will soon be eaten into extinction. A recent survey by the
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is revealing
that some primate species in Nigeria now only have a 50% chance of
surviving the next decade.

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CERCOPAN, the non-profit organization, serves as a home for orphaned
monkeys, victims of logging and hunting activities. It was established
in Cross River State 14 years ago with the aim of conserving Nigeria’s
primates and operates with the sanction and cooperation of the state’s
Forestry Commission.

Now, it is home to five species of Guenons and one specie of Mangabey monkeys. Matilda Otinyia, a care giver in the shelter, says that the aim is to bring up the monkeys in a habitat that closely resembles their original home. “This is a rehabilitation centre…when they have formed a social group and we think that they can survive on their own, we send them back to the protected forests,” she says.

“We ensure that the forest is safe and then the monkeys are
re-introduced into the forests. While in the wild, we track them with
radio-tracking devices,” says Chris Agbor. Dr Agbor, who has been a
forester for over 30 years, is the Chief Executive of the Cross River
Forestry Commission. Monkeys in Nigeria are also gradually going into
extinction as a result of unregulated logging activities.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Resources Assessment of 2005 indicates that Nigeria is one of the top ten countries with the highest rates of forest loss in the world. Since 1990, Nigeria has lost some 6.1
million hectares of its forest cover. Augustin Ogogo, a forester,
talks about the advantage of the forests. “The monkeys live on the
trees and the trees manufacture food- leaves, fruit or seeds- for
them. The forest is their home.

If you remove the trees, they lose their homes and become vulnerable to predators like the hyenas or cheetahs,” he says. He also argues that deforestation breaks up the forests and may prevent the primates from moving away from areas where they may be threatened. Dr Ogogo is the Head of Department of the Forestry & Wildlife Resources Management Department in the University of Calabar.

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