On the 2nd of August we were invited along to the grand opening of the newest chimp house at Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary within Ol Pejeta Conservancy. Sweetwaters was established in 1993 when the Jane Goodall Institute and the Kenya Wildlife Service joined forces to open the sanctuary within Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Nanyuki, Kenya. An initial group of three chimpanzee orphans were brought to the sanctuary from a facility in Bujumbura, Burundi in 1993. This group of chimpanzees needed to be evacuated due to the outbreak of civil war in Burundi. Another group of nine adult chimps were brought to the sanctuary in 1995 and these were followed by another group of 10 in 1996. As chimpanzees are not native to Kenya, this sanctuary is a place to offer a safe home to those chimps that have been abused in the past and are in need of a good home. The chimps at Sweetwaters have differing backgrounds and are from many different countries but have all got one thing in common. They have each came from unimaginable circumstances and have faced horrific experiences of abuse and neglect. For example, Poco the chimp spent the first 9 years of his life in a cage suspended above a small workshop in an attempt to attract potential customers. The cage was so small that Poco was only able to sit or stand on two legs, which is unnatural for a chimpanzee. However, since settling in at Sweetwaters, Poco has been a model resident and is now one of the more gentle chimpanzees. Over the years the sanctuary has continued to take in more chimpanzees that have been rescued from traumatic situations and the total number of chimps now stands at 42, hence the need for a new chimp house. The new chimp house, which has 12 sleeping quarters, means there is sufficient room for more chimpanzees as the sanctuary is compelled to accept chimps that have been abused and require special care. Of course, chimps are not native to Kenya and so the sanctuary has been designed as a place where these once ill-treated chimps can enjoy the rest of their lives in a safe environment that has been created especially for them. Manager of Sweetwaters Sanctuary, Martin Mulama was on site to introduce us to Chimpanzee vet Dr George Paul. We were then briefed on the new chimp house and why it would benefit the chimps. As the ribbon was cut, it marked another achievement in the diary for the sanctuary. We were then taken through the chimp house and shown the young group of chimps that would be the first...

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A visit to the Colobus Trust


Posted By on Jul 22, 2012

Hand rearing any animal is a tough job so when we found out about baby Betsy – the longest surviving Black and White Angolan Colobus monkey to be hand reared – we were excited to be given the opportunity to visit Betsy and her handler, Andrea. We were asked to create a follow on documentary to reflect on the progress that Betsy has made during her time at the Colobus Trust. Betsy was taken in by Andrea and her partner, Keith when she was just 9 days old when unfortunately her mother could not be found. Baby Betsy was abandoned several times by various Black and White Angolan Colobus troops; in the end the staff of Colobus Trust had to intervene in order to save her life. Since Andrea and Keith took over the job of hand rearing Betsy they have overcome many difficulties. Due to Betsy’s age and her unique and unfortunate experience, alongside her  demanding dietary requirements, bringing her up has been no easy task. Firstly we met up with Andrea, whom we would be recording an interview with, in the office along with Betsy – whom we quickly found out was quite the character when meeting new people! The filming equipment appeared to be her favourite! Andrea told us about Betsy’s latest situation, as well as all the stories and information she had about the past 18 months.  The interview was interrupted a few times by Betsy, it appeared that the only method to calm down her energetic mind is a little treat from her handler every now and then. Apart from interviewing Andrea, our other task was to capture as many clips of Betsy’s activity as possible. When she jumped from one tree branch to another, her playfulness attracted some of the other monkeys that belong to the home troop around where the Colobus Trust is based. This is where someday in the future Andrea hopes to release Betsy into the wild. Group leader Emily seemed to be Betsy’s favourite new friend; more than one time Betsy jumped on her shoulders and showed an interest in her camera. This made Emily’s work a little more difficult but at the same time very interesting. For all of us, the making of this documentary was a rare and precious opportunity. Not only because as crew we got a chance to see a Colobus monkey in a close distance, but also that our production aims to raise more awareness of both Betsy and the rest of the amazing work that the Colobus Trust continues to do. Update – October 2012: The documentary is now available on our YouTube...

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Single species conservation


Posted By on Nov 12, 2010

In many ecosystems a single species is often conserved in the hope that action towards them will improve survival chances of other species within the habitat. These organisms are also known as keystone species and their influence on fellow animals or an entire ecosystem can be enormous; species include the Eastern Red Backed Salamander and Sea Otter. It is seen as a more efficient way to conserve at an ecosystem level, therefore strengthening most animals within that area.  Another approach is conserving an umbrella species; one that requires a large range and therefore protecting that, shields a large area where other animals live. Many feel it is vital for conservationists to promote these types of conservation as they are the most beneficial to an entire ecosystem.  Conserving a flagship species can often be very expensive, which in impoverished areas can be a big problem. The actual identification of an animal whose existence benefits other organisms can also be difficult to determine. Any actions which are taken concerning an ecosystem are going to have an affect.  The choice of these flagship species can often be an animal which strikes an emotional chord with the general public. It is much easier to raise money through charity by using a mammal such as the gorilla as its poster animal. This may explain why much of the world’s amphibians are in danger of extinction. Would, an emotionless approach prove fairer and less biased to a species that gather little emotional...

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Throughout human history, humans have used animals as test subjects, from cosmetics and medical testing to space travel.  Animals are used to see what effect these processes have upon a human-like body, a practice which raises many moral and ethical questions. Primates were often chosen above others as test subjects for space exploration, as their close genetics and morphological similarities made them a perfect choice. The first primate in space was a Rhesus monkey called Albert II. This links closely to modern day usage of animal within scientific and cosmetic research. It is thought by a large number of people that usage within cosmetic testing is wrong, with a recent poll claiming that only 10% of Britons who took part thought animal testing for cosmetics was acceptable. [http://www.aboutanimaltesting.co.uk/changing-british-attitudes-animal-testing.html]. The testing performed within scientific and medical research is less clean cut. Could it be justified if the drugs tested on animals could save millions of human lives? Cancer or HIV treatments are known to be tested on animals and if this practice could lead to real development of the drugs and possible cures, is it ok? Or should all medical testing only be performed upon fellow humans? An article published in the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2009, stated that MPs in the UK were putting forward plans to investigate human alternatives to animal testing. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/4339504/Human-alternatives-to-animal-testing-should-be-investigated-MPs-say.html. Do you think it is right to use animals in situations which can cause suffering and possible death? Can the progression of medicine justify this...

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Zoos and sanctuaries appear the world over. They are now a major part of both conservation and the tourism industry. There are differences between the two, with sanctuaries being set up as a safe haven for mistreated animals, while zoos have traditionally focused upon the entertainment aspect and many of these cases are well documented.  http://www.captiveanimals.org/zoos/southport.htm Another issue which has caused controversy is the location of many of these places. Should animals which aren’t native to a country or even a continent, be found in sanctuaries and zoos?   Arguments for include a lack of finance or safe environment, due to situations such as deforestation, bush meat or war, within a species’ native country. Many people who advocate the presence of species within non-native countries, say it is important for their long-term survival, especially ones that are currently endangered. Arguments against include claims that it is important that species stay within their home range in order to facilitate conservation education, but the issue remains that sometimes it is difficult for this to occur. Improvements in infrastructure and stability in some areas may see the chance of the animals remaining there significantly increased. Whether an animal can truly live naturally without being in its habitat is also an issue that is important to this topic. Can an elephant or tiger really live happily within captivity? Such animals are thousands of miles from natural habitats, in areas which naturally bear little or no resemblance to their countries of origin. In the case of zoos, could it be classed as cruelty to put certain species in such different surroundings? Large animals like the elephants mentioned could suffer from living in captivity, unable to migrate or command a large home range. Can sanctuaries be classed as a different matter as most of the animals housed in these collections have no where else to go?...

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At first glance, eco-tourism initiatives that allow people to get close to endangered species seem like a brilliant way of dealing with several of conservation’s significant problems; raising awareness and increasing people’s passion for conservation, boosting local economies, and bringing money in to help pay to conserve not only the species in question, but others in the same ecosystem. Bwindi, Uganda is one area which has particularly benefited from a gorilla tourism program, with the need for trackers and rangers creating employment, and a market for gift shops and cultural experiences enabling local communities to gain from tourist presence. However, recent research is beginning to reveal that there are actually some serious detrimental effects on the animals involved in some of eco-tourism’s most successful projects. In May 2010, The Guardian reported that researchers in the Central African Republic had found that gorillas undergo dangerous levels of stress when exposed to tourists at close quarters. Observing a group of gorillas as tourists, scientists and local trackers got close to them, the researchers noticed that the gorillas’ feeding behaviour changed as more humans joined the group; they were less able to focus on the task at hand, instead being disturbed by the human activity and spending time watching them. The silverback male in the group also issued some warning barks when he felt that people were getting too close to him and his group – a very clear sign that he was uncomfortable with this intrusion. As well as the pyschological effects of eco-tourism on gorillas, the potential for disease transmission is a serious concern for conservationists. Take the mountain gorilla as an example: there are only around 720 left in the world, and something as seemingly harmless as a common cold, transmitted by a tourist sneezing near a group, could easily wipe out an entire family or more. Currently, humans must only remain seven metres away from the gorillas they’re watching, but it is now being proposed that this is increased to 18 metres, though this would be hard to maintain and enforce in dense rainforest. It is not only gorillas that are at risk from eco-tourism. It was announced in May this year that India is to ban tiger tourism in an attempt to save its estimated 800 remaining Bengal tigers from exctinction in the wild. It is thought that the constant stream of tourists through India’s relatively small reserves scares away tigers’ prey, prevents them from following their usual migratory routes, and destroys the habitat in which they would normally hunt, as lodges and hotels appear in huge numbers to cater for the tourist market. Another concern is...

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