Caring for a Baby Gorilla


Posted By on Nov 5, 2013

  Looking after a baby gorilla isn’t easy, especially if you’re a human. Someone who knows this all too well is Appolinaire Ndohoudou, Controller at Ape Action Africa’s sanctuary in Mefou, Cameroon. Having worked here for 11 years, Appolinaire has been surrogate father for many of the gorillas here, including possibly the best known of the sanctuary’s residents, Shufai. Shufai’s story is one that exemplifies the challenges and heartaches inherent in taking a traumatised and injured gorilla far too young to have been separated from its mother, nursing it back to health, and maintaining it to – and through – adulthood. Shufai was only a few months old when he arrived at the sanctuary in, bearing both mental and physical scars from his mother’s death. With bullets lodged in his head and left arm, and an intense fear of humans, he spent his first few days at the sanctuary hiding in a transport cage, while Appolinaire waited patiently in the same room, feeding him through the bars of the cage door and biding his time until he had gained enough of Shufai’s trust to be able to pick him up and assess his injuries. As Shufai grew, it became apparent that the damage to his arm would continue to be a problem. Curving inwards and becoming increasingly painful, he was virtually unable to use his arm, so an operation was carried out to insert metal pins and try to straighten it. Though initially a success, by early 2013 it was clear that Shufai was still experiencing a lot of pain, so a further operation was scheduled to reposition the pins. When the veterinary team X-rayed and examined his arm under anaesthetic, they realised it was now beyond saving, and made the difficult decision to amputate the lower half of his arm to give him the best chance at a pain-free life. Eight months later, we have been lucky enough to witness Shufai climbing trees – something he was never able to do prior to the operation – playing with other members of his group, and lounging happily in the shade to contemplate the selection of food scattered around him. Appolinaire, visibly moved when remembering the anxious days around the operation, is delighted with the progress Shufai has made since March, happy to see him eating, running and interacting normally with the rest of his group. The future for Shufai at Ape Action Africa now looks bright; he is not expected to need any further treatments or medication relating to his arm surgeries, and will remain in safe, forested surroundings at the sanctuary. The future for gorillas in the wild...

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A Week in Cameroon


Posted By on Oct 20, 2013

By Micheal Jordan Life in Cameroon is ever changing, there is a vibrant feeling in the air that fills you with energy.  As I write this I have Diego the cat sat on my lap purring away, while rain is starting to come down and distant rolls of thunder draw ever closer. There’ll be a big storm tonight. It’s hard to try and give you a feeling of what it is like here in Mefou. We sleep in a set of dorm rooms sandwiched between rainforest with a baby chimp enclosure on one side and an adolescent gorilla enclosure behind us that holds Nkan Daniel’s group. A tree has just fallen on the baby chimp enclosure, hopefully there won’t be any little escapees today! Within a few days the forest started to feel like home., already it seems like we have been here for months. After our orientation with the primate handshake crew, we had a tour with one of the local guides who showed us around the Mefou sanctuary.  Walking about the place you start to realise just how big the sanctuary is and what a challenge it must be to look after all of the sanctuaries various inhabitants. Daily life is a mixture of filming and editing for different videos the sanctuary would like us to make for them.  On Tuesday, I spent the day perched on a water tower to get some shots of the gorillas for a video update on Shufai and how Gorillas are disappearing in the wild here in Cameroon. It’s enthralling to see the passion that many of the staff here show for the work they are doing. You can see it in their eyes when they are being interviewed. I’ve also had the chance to film one of the most engaging things that I’ve probably ever seen.  A Mandrill was brought in to have some teeth removed as they were causing him considerable pain and he was starting to lose weight. Due to the limited facilities available here, the vet had to use a power drill and a scraper rather than a dentistry drill. It was certainly tough to watch, but already he seems to be up and about, feeling much better for having them removed. Anyway, It’s almost time for tea here. Chips and sauce tonight, I suppose some things don’t...

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Getting Up Close to the Apes


Posted By on Oct 17, 2013

What made you want to join the primate handshake? I’ve always been fascinated by animals, all sorts of animals, but I was first drawn to apes when I visited a zoo in Barcelona and met one of their resident Orangutans. While it was great to see such an awesome animal up close, I would much rather have seen him out and about in his natural habitat. Since then I had been on the lookout for an opportunity to get involved with some of the amazing organisations that help out animals who are in danger of having their habitats destroyed, or who have been injured or orphaned as a result of poaching. MJ, a friend and work colleague, is well known for his penchant for all things primate and having spoken to him about the subject, a few months later I’m sitting in a forest in Cameroon, surrounded by apes (not so dissimilar to my job at home it must be said!) helping to document the work that Ape Action Africa are doing here to care for young and injured primates. I’ve just recently developed an interest in photography and what better way to practice than to snap some awesome animals in an amazing location for a great cause. The Primate Handshake involves all three of these aspects so it was a no brainer. What is your background and how does it relate to the trip? Working as an engineer for a race team, there’s not a great deal of crossover between my day to day job and my passion for animals. Perhaps working in a technical environment, so different from the great outdoors, has spurred me on to spend more of my spare time surrounded by nature, who knows? What are your first impressions of Mefou? I was met at the airport upon arrival by one of the very friendly rangers of Mefou National Park. Following a short drive on ‘normal’ roads, we headed off piste down a narrowing, rutted, muddy track towards the park. The first thing that struck me when I arrived, in the dead of night, was the soundtrack playing outside the windows of my accommodation. A cacophony of insect and birdsongs played long into the night. Dawn was broken to the sound of one (persistent) rooster and the baby chimp living next door. Gorillas live literally 10ft behind our accommodation and appear to be as curious about us as we are of them. Writing this half way through Day 1 of the trip I’ve already seen so much. I can’t to see what’s around the next corner. What do you hope to gain from the trip?...

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In Kwale County, adjacent to Shimba Hills National Reserve, farmers have been coexisting with wildlife for years: animals such as baboons and elephants that cannot understand the human construct of fences and happen to enjoy eating many of the same crops we do.  Presented with once carefully cultivated fields now trampled and eaten by elephants, some farmers began to retaliate, with no way to keep the elephants out and few options to compensate for the loss of livelihood brought about by the destruction of their crops.  For the elephants, simply roaming the land on which they’ve had free rein for generations, this was a further pressure to add to the habitat loss and poaching already affecting their species.  With a conflict this complex, it is hard to know where to begin finding a solution that benefits both humans and wildlife, without detracting disproportionately from either.  Mwaluganje Elephant Sanctuary is one such initiative.  If there’s one thing elephants provide a lot of, it’s dung, and the founders of the project turned this to their advantage, creating a business with its roots in this free and abundant resource.  When cleaned and processed, elephant dung can be made into paper products, which are sold to visitors in the project’s shop.  Not only this, but visitors can also learn about – and have a good chance of seeing – the elephants themselves, guided by the sanctuary’s rangers.  During our visit, we spoke to Fatuma Hasira, one of the project’s managers, who told us that the money raised through the sale of the paper products is of huge benefit to the community, and that people now enjoy watching the elephants browsing in the distance as they pass through. Another project making the most of elephant dung is the Pasha Self Help Group, led by John Monroe Kioka, who used knowledge gained while travelling the world during his career to help his community overcome the challenges of living and farming next to Shimba Hills’ large population of elephants, the densest in Kenya.  On returning to his farm at retirement, John realised he was unable to cultivate most of his land because the crops would be destroyed overnight by elephants and baboons.  This issue was far-reaching, and the community was struggling to maintain a livelihood.  Remembering farmers in India using chillies to protect their crops from elephants, John hit upon the idea of combining chillies and tobacco leaves with elephant dung to create a potent, slow-burning mixture whose acrid smoke proves extremely effective in keeping elephants at bay.  The baboons, trickier to deter, are now dissuaded from entering the fields when farmers spray their crops with...

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New Ways to Handshake


Posted By on Aug 1, 2013

New Look site Launched On our 5th birthday we’re proud to unveil our new look site Handshake.org.uk and tell you how we’re evolving. DOWNLOAD THE PRESS RELEASE Handshake.org.uk is designed to showcase the best of what we offer, be that our award winning production services or our flagship volunteer projects. We’ve worked hard to simplify our navigation and bring some of our best content to the fore for you to sample. You’ll also notice that our volunteer projects have grown and alongside the famous Great Primate Handshake we have new titles, Reforestation Handshake and Wildlife Handshake. You’ll have noticed, over the years we’ve expanded our remit to work with other deserving projects and we felt that these project should be reflected in name and programme. We have a strong commitment to all of the projects (and primates) we have worked with in the past and the Great Primate Handshake is continuing with projects already live for both 2013 & 2014. Take a look around our site now and let us know what you think in the comments – keep checking back as we expand our online archives of videos and...

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We’re 5 Today!


Posted By on Aug 1, 2013

It’s 5 years to the day since the first Great Primate Handshake volunteer expedition began in Cape Town, South Africa. 18 volunteers answered the call to join the ‘shake and embarked on a journey that would take them across the country creating digital content for primate sanctuaries and primate conservation organisations. Today we’re celebrating, not only with the launch of our new online home, but over the next 28 days we will be revisiting the first groundbreaking journey. Starting tomorrow, we’ll be hearing from the inaugural team who will be reminiscing on their favorite memory from that expedition and letting us know where they are now. We’ve also scanned the Handshake archives and unearthed some never-before-seen video clips and photographs that we will be sharing with you in the coming weeks. We will also have special guest blogs and interviews from organisations that we have supported, sharing their memories and the difference Handshake volunteers have made to their organisation. For today’s birthday treat we have uploaded a high quality version of the first volunteer film produced: Day One of the Primate Handshake Originally uploaded when YouTube was a low quality streaming...

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