|11-10-2011, 09:37 AM||#77|
Joined: Aug 2010
Location: Timisoara, Romania
Hope you're fine!
We need more, please! We can't keep our breath that long, you know!
Everything is OK there? Just let us know if you need anything and we're there in no time!
... with some advice, at least...
Anyway, wish you all the best, ride safe, and keep feeding us, please!
|11-12-2011, 03:34 AM||#79|
Joined: Aug 2011
Location: Ex-pat Poles in Adelaide Hills, South Australia
OK first, loving the ride report...excellent
Wow! These photos are amazing! Btw you have a really good eye for photography .
I'm definitely in !
|11-25-2011, 01:03 AM||#80|
|11-25-2011, 10:25 AM||#82|
Bend it Bend it
Joined: Nov 2003
|11-27-2011, 06:04 AM||#83|
We're using a 5dMKII + 24mm f/1.4L + 70-200mm f/2.8L. We sure miss a point&shoot which would have been easier to use in some cases.
An Enchanted Night In The Rainforest Changed Everything
On the 9th of October there were presidential elections scheduled in Cameroon. The dictator Paul Biya, in power for over 20 yrs, was the expected frontrunner for yet another 7 years term. On the 30th of September an opponent of the current regime fired a gun in Douala, and the police found an unexploded grenade in Limbe, at the Elecam hq. On the 13th of Octiber our Nigeria visa would expire, so on the 4th we were heading from Abuja to the Ikom border, with the intention to cross into Cameroon and avoid the capital during elections or to bushcamp next to the border.
There 3 ways into Cameroon: the good tar up in the north, through Maiduguri and the highly unstable Boko Haram territory. The overlanders' hell, the dreaded Ekok-Mamfe piste, marred by lorries and loggers' trucks and potentially hazardous during the last weeks of the rainy season. Or the ferry from Calabar to Limbe, that we could not afford.
The eastern Nigerian states are visibly more lively and prosperous. Small, colorful villages, mud brick houses with zinc roofs, fresh food markets, streetside restaurants with delicious food, plantations. People are friendly, food is cheap and we zoom by police checkpoints without being stopped.
The roads are bad though, so after Obudu we decide to crash overnight at Afi Drill Ranch. Emi and Oli, the Brits overloading in a Landie who we'd met in Lome and who are ahead of us in Gabon, told us to stop in Afi, if we had the time.
The air is moist, the forrest is soaking and we are rolling through dense high vegetation that hardly allow any sunlight in the undergrowth. The track is narrow and goes up and down for 15 km into the dark heart of the rainy forest. It rains every day, sometimes even more times a day. The tires slide easily or the sticky mushy clay, so a fall is imminent. We bite the mud two times, but we arrive in one piece, yet covered in dirt and with rivers of sweat flowing from the forehead to the boots.
We're in the deep bush. There is no GSM network, no electricity and no running water. Afi Drill Ranch is the research camp of Pandrillus, a conservation project dedicated to saving the primates and the forest of Cross River state from extinction. The camp is bordering the wildlife sanctuary established together with the state government. The project receives short teem visitors who can witness the daily work and learn about primates conservation. We are welcomed by 2 American long term volunteers, Amanda and Jens, who show us around.
Dimineata stim ce avem de facut, si dupa ce vizitam baza, plecam spre Calabar pentru a ne pune in aplicare planul.
We are completely exhausted. Soon we lay down in our tent, pitched in the bamboo shed.
The night is magical. The darkness burns the eyes and is hardly interrupted by myriad stars and immense fireflies. A choir of forrest sounds - amphibians, insects and nocturnal mammals - completely new to our ears. We let this new energy burn its imprint into our DNA.
We're having a scottish breakfast in the middle of the rainforrest
We are camping right by the main drill enclosure, next to the crocodiles and the duika, in the yard of Pandrillus HQ, which is also the home of Peter Jenkins, the founder of the project. Him and Lisa Gadsby arrive in Nigeria while overloading in Africa. They had a 10 days transit visa and a meeting with destiny. They discovered that the Cross River subspecies of drill monkey, assumed to be extinct, was still roaming the forests, and they embarked on a race to save them. More than 20 years later, Pandrillus has become one of the world's most successful conservation & captivity breeding of an endangered species projects. It is amazing that such a project exists in the impoverished West Africa and in Nigeria, of all the places. To us it was logical to volunteer our time and effort, and a privilege to be accepted. We sorted out our papers (visa and laissez passer extension) and went shopping for working gear (trousers, long sleeve shirt, shoes) from the second hand shacks in the market. By the end of the week we were already back in the midst of primary rain forest. We were not to exit this unique but dwindling wildlife sanctuary for the next four weeks.
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mrwwwhite screwed with this post 11-27-2011 at 06:19 AM
|11-30-2011, 01:05 AM||#85|
What are Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Afri Drill Ranch and Pandrillus?
Information provided by Pandrillus. Photos by us.
Pandrillus is a Nigerian NGO that promotes survival of one of Africa's most endangered primates, the drill monkey. The main activity is the Drill Rehabilitation & Breeding Center project (nicknamed "Drill Ranch"), conducting conservation research and survey work in Nigeria and Cameroon, where it also co-manages the Limbe Wildlife Center. The project also provides sanctuary to 28 rescued orphan chimpanzees, the older ones living in their own natural forest enclosure at Afi Drill Ranch, while the youngest live together in a chimp nursery in Calabar.
What is a Drill?
Bulli, the challenging male to the alpha in Group 6, Ochu
Drills (Mandrillus leucophaeus) are large, short-tailed rain forest monkeys, endemic to Cross River Sate, Nigeria, south-west Cameroon and Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. Drills have a smooth black face, males have wider faces with intense magenta and purple coloration in genital area and around the cheeks, and they can surpass 45 kg. They have a particularly well-formed thumb, they communicate with facial expressions, vocalizations and specialized behaviors. Unlike most monkeys, drills are semi-terrestrial, searching the ground for food (fallen fruit, roots, leaves, insects, invertebrates), climbing the trees to forage and to sleep at night. They are also semi-nomadic, traveling long distances in the forest, perhaps following fruiting seasons of different trees. Like most primates, they are highly social and live in groups of 15-30. At certain times of the year super-groups of up to 200 animals can occur in the wild, allowing individuals to leave the group they were born in and join another, thus preventing in-breeding. Unfortunately these extraordinary animals are in danger of extinction. Hunted illegally for bushmeat, with only 40,000 sq km of natural range impoverished by logging, farming and human developments, drills are a top conservation priority among the 60+ African primate species. Little is known of drill ecology, as they are elusive and not well studied in the wild. The world population if wild drills is less than 10,000 and could be as low as 3,000.
The first step is to learn exactly where drills still live and which populations have the best chance of survival. Liza and Peter completed in 1989 a survey of Nigeria and covered most of Cameroon (which has over 60% of world's drill habitat). Drills are protected from hunting in Cross River National Park in Nigeria and the Korup National Park in Cameroon. In May 2000 the Cross River State Government created the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, where wild drills, gorillas, chimps and other endangered species survive. Still, forests are difficult to secure against poachers. Former hunters are being employed as wildlife rangers, to patrol the sanctuary, in an award-winning community-based protection scheme. Recently Peter has created the first ever Task Force that is fighting illegal logging in an attempt to protect the wildlife habitat of these endangered species.
Drills are rare in captivity and they reproduce poorly in zoos, where they lose some of their native instinct and are not likely to successfully return to the wild. While conducting survey work in 1988, Peter and Liza discovered infant drill in villages, by-products of hunting of nursing mothers shot for bushmeat. They decided to salvage this potentially valuable conservation and genetic resource and to raise the primates in natural-sized social groups in their own habitat. The Pandrillus project promotes habitat protection education and awareness about the importance of endangered wildlife conservation.
What is "Drill Ranch"?
The Ranch started in 1991 with 5 drills, and by January 2009 298 drills - over 75% of captive drills in the world - were living in Afi. Most drills were donated by citizens of Cross River; some were recovered by wildlife or park officers, or police. Two monkeys were recovered from Asia, from the hands of international smugglers. The project never buys animals, because it's illegal and we must not encourage wildlife trade. Drills usually arrive as infants and, after quarantined, grow and live together in 1 of the 6 groups, in solar-powered electric enclosure of naturally forested drill habitat in the Afi River Forest Reserve, Boki LGA, Cross River State, Nigeria. The first group of drills was flown by helicopter to Afi in 1996.
The project is home to Africa's first captive drill birth and world's first ever twin birth in captivity, and has witnessed more than 200 births since its start. The nearest villages (Buanchor and Kataba) benefit greatly from the project: permanent staff is employed from there and most animal food is purchased from local farmers.
The wheelbarrows with fruits for one of the 3 daily feedings. Each will feed a group of drills, the scarcity of the food encourages the drills to continue foraging and prevents them from becoming dependent.
The project has been working for this pioneering event for over 5 years. If the project will be able to maintain sustainable protection of the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, the super-group of over 130 drills will be released from Enclosure 1 on Afi Mountain, in a carefully monitored program. The Graduation will be a worldwide premiere and is scheduled for 2012, during fruiting season, with various scenarios planned. The super-group is expected to split into 3 to 5 groups, and the larger males - who will potentially assume dominance within the new groups - will carry collars.
Chimpanzees in Drill Ranch
Another world record is about to be completed in Afi Ranch. The staff is working on the largest ever naturally forested enclosure for chimps, a beautiful 12 ha of primary rain forest, where the rescued chimps will be living a decent life, along members of their own species. Chimpanzees are 99% genetically identical to humans and after living in miserable captivity for years - in poorly managed zoos or as pets - they cannot re-adapt to life in the wild. The project offers home to rescued chimps, but does not encourage captive breeding. The chimps in Drill Ranch are divided in 2 heterogeneous groups, dominated by 2 alpha males: Willy and Jacob. The oldest chimpanzee is 42 years old and there is also one lowland chimp, rescued from Guinea, named Pablo.
How is Drill Ranch funded?
The project is funded by direct donation in Nigeria, the fund-raising efforts of Pandrillus Foundation in the USA and Rettet den Drill in Germany. The Cross River State Government provides monthly contribution for staff salaries and animal feeding and has donated a vehicle and funded eco-tourism infrastructure that brings in revenue. Non-national staff, including Liza and Peter, work for free, with about 40 Nigerian staff on salary. The project has a tree nursery where native species are being grown from seedlings, then sold for a modest fee to the forest department for re-planting. Pandrillus works in cooperation with the Cross River State Forestry Commission, Ministry of Environment and Tourism Bureau. Pandrillus offers a yearly grant for a green project developed by a Boki villager.
|11-30-2011, 01:19 AM||#86|
Our Stint with Pandrillus - Part I
Day 118. We reached the 30,000 km on the clock, and the next km will be only logged while moving to our working sites or going to the next village, Buanchor, where sometimes there is GSM signal.
Working day starts at 8 a.m. with a staff briefing, there is also a 12 am - 1 pm lunch break. Crew boys - supporting personnel who perform most endurance tasks - finish work at 4 pm, the rest of us at 5 pm. We cook our own fod, dinner being sometimes served in the secondary staff shed, where we cooked and socialized, learning words in local dialects, how to use wild vines for the traditional Nigerian food (like egusi) and abusing the local staple, garri - a casava flour that we used for pancakes, tortillas and deserts.
We are deeply grateful to our colleagues, the management and in particular to Peter Jenkins, for the opportunity to work together in one of the most successful and important conservation projects in the world.
Proiect Satelit 1 & 6/ Satellite 6 & 1 works
Cutting and pre-drilling the frame pieces
A quick run to Ikom, to sort out our Laissez-Passer extension
After work we would relax in the communal area, the main shed
The view from the main shed towards the Afi Mountain it's never the same.
Satellite 6 - 2 days, individual work
We replaced rotten wood, fitted the panels with mesh, repaired broken frames, built new platforms for the quarantined drills and designed, built and fitted door stoppers for the sliding doors that connect the satellite to the enclosure and that separate the 2 compartments inside the satellite. After work we cleaned the site from debris and transported all scraps to the garbage pit and to the storage from where wood can be recovered for making fire.
On the Canopy Walkway, the second largest in Africa, suspended at over 30 meters in the trees.
Lianes are parasite plants typically found in the tropical forests
A parasite tree is slowly murdering its host
At the magic tree in Buanchor: the village GSM antena.
Kids in Buanchor
We completed and assessment of the entire built base, highlighting: what needs to be fixed, replaced or improved in visitor and staff cabins, sheds and animal enclosures, we tagged with red tape the fence poles that are must be changed, suggestions for an improved layout of the vet shed, tool shed and fuel shed in relation to the main staff shed and the working area. We proposed 2 washing points (water birds) with easy access from the toilets and water source (stream). One important aspect is using as many materials from site as possible and keeping the budget to a minimum.
Our second survey work was assessing the new chimp extension which is a big operation: we proposed an improved working flow taking into account manpower and materials availability and sources (gravel and sand are difficult to bring to the site because the terrain is quite irregular and even marshy). We proposed a prototype for the 7 bridges that would ensure easy access around the enclosure for maintenance staff and an ATV. We proposed solutions for terrain works in particularly delicate areas (2 marshes and one area very difficult to cross). Bridge proposal follow a few main ideas: using materials already on site, using as little concrete as possible to keep pollution to a minimum, keeping the site clean for debris, building a cheap wood strecher-like container for concrete mixing (to avoid several pits difficult to clean afterwards) and following a simple but strict work flow.
Riding the truck to Buanchor
American pancakes with garri and bananas by Jens
Shaua-Shaua, the wild pineapple. In the background is CJ.
Changing the brake disc, thanks to our invaluable friend, Harry.
|11-30-2011, 08:49 AM||#87|
Joined: Dec 2008
Location: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Those are great photos... in particular, the adult male drill is absolutely spectacular... as is the chimp.
|12-02-2011, 02:19 AM||#89|
Joined: Apr 2008
Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa
You guys have done some great work at Afi Drill Ranch. As a resident of Africa I appreciate the challenges in such a venture.
Thanks for the updates and please contact me when you are in South Africa. I would like to show you around my little piece of paradise. See my website below.
|12-04-2011, 07:44 AM||#90|
Our Stint with Pandrillus - Part II
Former star president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo arrived at the ranch 10 years after his first visit. It was an intense team effort to prepare the camp for his visit and it was great fun to have him over and to get to know him. Years back in Galati or Bucharest we would have never thought that us, two ordinary Romanians, would get to know the president of Nigeria, and the most famous and powerful nevertheless.
President Olusegun Obasanjo posing with the ebony that he planted here 10 years ago. Ebony is one of the most precious essences in Africa, it's very resistant to humidity and was traditionally used for bridges in Boki region, but is now under threat of being forested into extinction.
At the chimp platform where I had build 2 new visitor benches. CJ is the star of the day, making a brilliant presentation for Obasanjo and the entourage
Obasanjo signs the guest book, while Peter Jenkis acts as the man in the shadow.
Asuko (senior drill keeper in group 1 & 6) shows Poto, who is rather unhappy to be disturbed from his usual daytime sleep
President asked us to take a photo with him, and we happily obliged. Now we are waiting for Jonathan.
Presedintele fac cunostinta cu personalul.
The strong jaw of the president next to more ranch staff: Tony (group 1 & 6), Gabriel (group 2, 3, 4), James (group 2 & 5), Rose (housekeeping), Thomas (group 5, fence maintenance)
Cleaning and maintenance of the two big and crowded chimp satellites was top priority. The faces, solids and liquids are difficult to collect and remove from site. Problems are: staff medical issues like frequent eye and skin infections, pools of dirty matter where mosquitoes quickly reproduce generating an unmanageable infested area and most of all, pollution of the nearby stream via a channel that carries all dirty waters. We proposed a septic pit: 95x155 cm, 1.60m deep, concrete walls, no bottom. We would lay gravel and then sand on the bottom of the septic, allowing the dirty matters to slowly be filtrated. The solids would by then be partially be consumed by insects and the surplus can be shoveled to the main garbage pit. The septic would be connected with a concrete gutter to the satellite, and would have a wooded pedestrian cover, making it easy to maintain and service. We would fit the septic wit an overflow: PVC slotted pipes that would direct only filtered liquids and meteoric water to the stream.
We eliminated the polluting drain system towards the stream, we closed the gutter in the satellite, we marked and dug the pit
We sent crew boys for sand and stones, which we then pounded to the desired granulation. We designed the concrete recipe.
We built and placed the forms. As we were using scraps, we struggled to level the faces.
Forms, reinforcing wire and overflow drain fitted
With my crew boys for the day: Mathew and Godwin. We prepared a semi-wet premix on the floor, then correct the consistency in the wheelbarrow, and poured with a metal basinet. We vibrated with an old iron.
Walls and washing platform done.
We dismantle the forms. The walls are not perfectly plane, but the concrete is impeccable
Godwin covers the drain with soil
We poured the connection gutter to the satellite.
Typical staff & visitors photo. From felt to right: Jens (from Oregon, volunteers for 1 year), a German visitor, Asuko (Senior drill keeper, from Calabar), Mageed (vet and manager), Ana, visitor & driver
From left to right: me, Nasseru (welder), Ana, Asuko, Celestine (driver), CJ, Mageed
Rose, Ana, Franca
Me, Peter, Ana, Godwin, Emmanuel 1, Amanda, Mathew, takam, Tony, Thomas, James, Gabriel, Robert, Emma 2
Final group photo, the departure morning.
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