Depending on how hardcore of an animal watcher you are, you may love or hate this post. If you refuse to go to zoos, skip this post. If you enjoy seeing well-taken-care-of wildlife, even if in a somewhat zoo-like setting, read on.
In Nigeria, a couple of organizations run programs to rehabilitate different types of primates that have been orphaned or were formerly pets. The biggest of these organizations is Pandrillus, an organization started by two somewhat crazy Americans who fell in love with a monkey called a drill, the most endangered primate in the world (and aclose relative of the more colorful mandrill). The program has spent the last 25 years preparing to release groups of drills back into the wild. We visited their headquarters in Calabar, as well as their "bush" location in the rainforest about five hours away. Here are some wildlife pictures from that outing.
People often bring injured animals to the center, even if it is supposed to be for primates. In this case, they were given a bushbuck, which is a type of antelope. This one was almost ready to be released again, but he discovered that I was a natural salt lick with all my sweat.
At Afi Mountain, Pandrillus's land in the "bush," butterflies abound, and I love taking butterfly pictures. Here is a nice blue one that we'll call Butterfly Cordon Bleu.
Afi Mountain has six different groups of drills, each with 15 to 125 individuals. Each of these groups has a dominant male and many less-than-dominant males. The dominant male can often be found sitting around like this one. The less dominant ones are constantly watching their backs.
Also, becoming the dominant male apparently causes hormonal changes that make your face get wider, your shoulders broaden, and your butt turn amazing shades of blue and pink. This all happens within a couple months of becoming alpha male.
Can't forget the mom and baby drills. This baby is a few weeks old and spends most of its time attached to mama.
The face of a drill looks almost like a mask, and you can certainly see how it would inspire native masks. This is also the dominant male, around ten or twelve years old. Drills live to be about 25 or 30 if lucky, but the older males live on the fringes of the main groups, with the dominant males not really fond of them.
Pandrillus also cares for chimps, most of whom started out as pets in terrible conditions. Unfortunately, chimps can't be released into the wild once accustomed to humans or they will simply run to the first house that they find to look for food. This guy is named Pablo, and he was confiscated being shipped to Asia 20 years ago. He was in a tiny box with no air that caused him to have a stroke, but he has largely recovered. He is a subspecies of the Eastern Lowland Chimp, and is a fun gray color, making him seem very old and wise.
While hiking in the woods one morning and looking for birds (I didn't see a single one), I was forced to amuse myself with these interesting fruits that grew directly on the tree. They would fall off and start to rot, where they would be eaten by animals.
It will shock our regular readers that I next turned to fungi for consolation. Here are some tiny tree-like 'shrooms. Probably not edible.
The camp had two African Grey Parrots that had been either confiscated or given to them. Both were unable to fly, so they would hop all over. These parrots have the best vocal cords of any animal except man. These spent most of their time imitating the noises of the jungle.
They had some big millipedes in he rainforest. If Tara wasn't careful, I might be digging one like this out of her scalp soon. Just kidding--these are harmless.
Look! More fungus! Such a nice orange color.
We have seen tons of termite mounds, most impressively tall. Termites in Nigeria prefer the understated, though, so they build mounds that are only about a foot tall but are an excellent shape. Almost like a mosque, so we'll say that in Nigeria, the termites have been converted to Islam.
Another nice butterfly. And it really didn't want to open its wings for a picture. Drills will sometimes eat butterflies and other insects.
What kind of crazy fungus is that?
Red butterflies are always eyecatching. Once they catch my eye, I try to catch them with the camera, but that is a harder task. After a bunch of tries, I finally got a picture.
Here is Tara in the hut that we stayed in at Afi Mountain. Fairly large. Apparently, the Nigerian government helped to build them a few years ago. The government is also supposed to help fund the organization, but somehow the money keeps disappearing. In Nigeria, this type of corruption is called "chopping" which is slang for eating. The money is eaten before it gets to where it is going...
That concludes the nature part of Nigeria. Maybe not the best actual nature, but we got to be up-close-and-personal with some really interesting primates and see some nice rainforest. We'll bring you some more nature from Cameroon, though don't get excited--wildlife spotting in the rainforest is really tough.