We are now just at the end of the first ever Handshake project in Cameroon, and what an incredible project it’s been.  Based in Mefou, a beautiful forest half an hour from the capital, Yaoundé, we are working with Ape Action Africa, a charity devoted to protecting Cameroon’s primates and their forest habitat.  Founded in 1996 under the name Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund, the charity has two sites of operation: Mvog Betsi Zoo in Yaoundé, and a sanctuary for orphaned and injured primates here in Mefou. The Handshake team is here to document every aspect of Ape Action Africa’s work, from the animal husbandry that keeps staff busy round the clock, to routine vaccinations and complicated surgeries, and the community outreach and education programme which ensures the people living in and around Mefou benefit from having a primate sanctuary in their midst, and that the conservation message from Ape Action Africa is widely heard. We are extremely privileged to be here surrounded by endangered apes and monkeys and the people who dedicate their lives to caring for them.  The sanctuary in Mefou houses over 300 primates, including the iconic gorillas and chimps which give the charity its name.  With the exception of a few surprise births within the sanctuary, every primate is here as a result of the illegal bush meat and pet trades, and habitat loss due to deforestation.  Bush meat, originally hunted for subsistence by small groups of people, is now an international trade, and the effects on primate populations are poignantly illustrated here.  For each baby chimpanzee or gorilla that ends up needing care in the sanctuary, five to ten members of its family will have been killed, and it’s hard to even estimate the numbers relating to those babies that never make it here and are therefore unaccounted for.  Every primate here has a shocking story, and their survival is testament to the dedication of those who care for them – not only when they first arrive, but throughout their development. Since our arrival in Cameroon, we have had the opportunity to speak to many of the people who have hand-reared the adult gorillas and chimpanzees who now roam enormous forest enclosures and dwarf most humans with their size and strength; we have seen the tonnes of food delivered to the sanctuary and carefully prepared each day, and we have learnt amazing things from everyone we meet.  We’ve been able to film chimpanzees having crucial tetanus vaccinations and an alpha male mandrill having damaged teeth extracted, while vasectomies for several monkey species are ongoing.  On Saturday, we were thrilled to be able to attend a...

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Article by Alasdair Davies, Web Development Director, The Great Primate Handshake. Do you know where the wood-based products you use on a daily basis actually come from? It’s a difficult question to answer as the paper trail and information necessary to identify a source is often hidden from a consumer’s eye, honestly unknown, or not declared at all. Are we actually purchasing and flushing away the very trees that provide for the primates we are ultimately trying to conserve? The problem is made worse for consumers wanting to purchase wood-based products from credible sources or environmentally aware companies. Organisations such as the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), established in 1993 to promote responsible management of the world’s forests, mark products such as toilet paper, kitchen roll and paper with an FSC logo. The logo tells a consumer that what they are buying is sustainable and certified – a useful tool if you want to select a product that you know hasn’t intentionally been produced from illegal logging operations or virgin rainforest. The problem though, is not that forestry certification schemes are ineffective, but that only a certain number of products, companies and supply chains adhere to the practice of certification. Having recently purchased a bed from a UK based company, it was apparent that the wood used to manufacture each bed head and divan in the warehouse was known only by its type, but not its origin. Rosewood, oak and pine was available, but was it from a sustainable source, and if not, how could I ever make an informed decision to buy a bed that was? It was with delight that today I noticed a new UK Government initiative, namely the Forest Footprint Disclosure Project (FFD Project), created to help companies and investors identify how an organisation’s activities and supply chains contribute to deforestation, and link this ‘forest footprint‘ to their value. This, I believe, is a step forward in helping companies actually learn where the wood they use is sourced from, and better still, identify if their actions are in-turn having an adverse effect on forests globally. Certification and a migration to sustainable sources may prove both environmentally and financially viable, but only if useful information can be collected and shared with the very companies supplying the end-consumer with the product that is ultimately driving demand. Global demand for agricultural commodities is the primary driver of deforestation, as land is cleared to produce biofuels, soya, palm oil and beef. Alongside timber and pulp, these commodities are the building blocks of millions of products traded globally. These in turn are wealth generators, or feature in the supply chains of...

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This post was sent to the Great Primate Handshake by Samantha Newport, Communications Manager at Gorilla.cd The Africa Conservation Fund (UK), a UK-registered charity, is looking for a Communications & Digital Media Officer (CDMO) to work in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. ACF, founded in 2005, is a dynamic and fast growing environmental conservation organization. The organization’s main program focuses on the protection of Mountain Gorillas and other critically endangered species in Virunga National Park, Africa’s oldest national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. ACF receives most of its funds through the European Union and from innovative fundraising from the public via the Internet at www.gorilla.cd. The CDMO will be a well organized and hard-working team player, able to work flexibly in a multicultural environment within tight deadlines, under extremely demanding field conditions. The CDMO must have native French or English, with proficiency in the other language. MAIN RESPONSIBILITIES Writing and editing the daily blog entries on www.gorilla.cd to boost readership, generate backlinks, improve blog ranking and increase online donations. Creating and managing innovative web-based campaigns to generate publicity and funds for Virunga’s Wildlife Rangers. Production of digital media content in Virunga National Park for Gorilla.cd and other sources (eg donors); digital media is a key component of Gorilla.cd. Managing digital media relationship with partners to boost visibility of Virunga; this includes managing a large digital media database. Training Wildlife Rangers of Virunga to provide quality media (photographic and video) from the field. Overall management of blog to boost profile of Virunga Rangers online, including involvement in website development and functionalities. Spokesperson for Gorilla.cd on a national and international level, as directed by Communications Director or Director of Virunga National Park. Production of additional promotional/information materials for Gorilla.cd and Virunga National Park. Requirements Native French or English, with proficiency in the other language; Excellent writing skills; Experience in blogging and social networking; Proven experience at working in a team; Able to work in demanding field conditions; An interest in wildlife. Line Management The CDMO will respond to the Communications Director of ACF. Terms of contract Competitive international salary 1 year initial contract with a three-month trial period. 25 days per annum of paid holiday Medical cover in DR Congo Basic accommodation 1 return flight to Europe per year Based in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo How to apply Please send a CV with a covering letter to recruitment@gorilla.cd. Please state your availability in the covering...

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Goodbye South Africa


Posted By on Oct 2, 2009

Monday the 28th of September saw the end of not only four weeks in South Africa, but also the end to the Handshake’s collective four month tour of the African continent. Starting in Johannesburg on the 1st of September, 20 volunteers from different backgrounds, of different ages and varying motivations, all came together under one objective – to raise awareness of primate conservation in South Africa. The last four weeks have been an incredible journey. From the staggering amount of content produced over the expedition; to the bonds, ties and friendships formed between the volunteers – I think I can speak for everyone when I say it truly has been an experience of a lifetime. Spanning South Africa from Jo’burg to Cape Town in our big yellow truck, setting up our mobile production unit anywhere with an available plug socket, it has been an epic voyage that I don’t think any of us will forget. Over the coming weeks the digital media produced by the Handshake volunteers will make its way online – and to the sanctuaries and organizations it was created...

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Situation on the Cape


Posted By on Sep 26, 2009

Over recent months, there has been an escalating situation on the Cape peninsula concerning baboons. A major conservation problem exists on the peninsula, in that an isolated population of baboons can’t leave the area and new baboons can’t enter. The natural migration routes have been gradually blocked by urbanization, meaning that the pathway to other potential baboon habitats and troops has been replaced by developed land. This unnatural isolation has lead to a number of existing and developing problems – one of the main being dispersing male baboons finding towns and cities instead of other baboon troops. A few months ago the management protocol on the Cape for dispersing male baboons was that if any male entered the urban space three times, he would be euthanized. The Baboon Management Trust decided that the ruling was too harsh – that of course all males will eventually enter the urban space three times, systematically leading to the extinction of all males from this population. The protocol was revised, which included relocation (in Bart’s case) to a troop with an opening for a new male. The protocol now allows for numerous relocations, however with the cost amounting to roughly 10,000 Rand to transfer a baboon across the Cape, there are only so many relocations available to specific baboons before a more permanent solution is proposed. The decision is ultimately left to the Wildlife Advisory Committee. They oversee all wildlife throughout South Africa, and using Bart as an example, the committee has decided that as he has displayed no interest in integration with other troops despite numerous efforts, the only option left is euthanasia. With four other male baboons currently being tracked having dispersed and being spotted in urban areas, and twelve males on the outskirts of Tokai forest waiting to disperse, the situation is definitely worsening. A sanctuary has been suggested, although local land managers have expressed little interest in the idea; and with an unavoidably large bill to build and maintain the establishment, it would be highly difficult to initiate a sanctuary for baboons on the Cape. Baboon management on the Cape is in a peculiar position. The situation is fairly unique  – high human conflict and no cultural attachment to the animal means that little compassion towards a long-term solution such as a sanctuary can be seen. With the Cape conflict on the rise, a solution to the problem is desperately needed. Both in the short term for the existing urbanized baboons, and long term in the hope to resolve the problem. Continue...

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Bart’s story


Posted By on Sep 26, 2009

Updates: Our current understanding is that Bart is still alive and still on campus. The situation remains precarious. A petition has been started to raise awareness of Bart’s situation, but there is no change to the arranged plans – Bart is still due to be euthanised. We will keep you updated as we learn more. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iF2ttt5qKc Originating from Tokai forest, Bart is a rogue male. He is thought to have left his troop in search of another, but instead of finding a home with other baboons, he found his home with students on the campus of Cape Town University. Originally spotted on the campus in August of last year, Bart was relocated to Cape Point – the furthest point south of the University in a place where other suitable baboon troops were known to be. As a result of previous management efforts, some troops had little to no males present – so it would have been ideal for Bart to integrate with. Unfortunately because of the radical change in environment, it is believed that Bart could not adapt to his new surroundings, finding it difficult to forage in the unfamiliar ecosystem. Coming from Tokai where his diet would have consisted of pine nuts, vines and grass, Bart was greeted by Fynbos – which is the indigenous vegetation in Cape Point. It is likely that Bart will have never eaten Fynbos in his life, and because of the difficult nature of acquiring the edible seeds, it is expected he would have been starving. As a result he moved out of the forest and into Simons Town. This is believed to be where he learned to raid bins, cars and shopping bags. However he did not stay long, and soon returned home to Tokai forest. Sadly Bart had acquired a preference for people; their company and their food, and was soon back at the University campus. Everybody knows Bart – he sleeps in the pine trees just above campus, has never attacked anyone and travels from bin to bin foraging most days. Because of his popularity, Bart’s case has become incredibly unique. His fame has undoubtedly affected the time scale of his ultimate date for removal, however the decision has definitely been made, and in the coming days Bart the baboon will be euthanized. While Bart’s story is terribly sad, his plight has helped raise awareness of the baboon problem on the Cape, and with the uproar following the decision to euthanize Bart, other management options will undoubtedly be explored – hopefully leading to an ethical and appropriate solution for the baboons here on the peninsula. Continue...

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