Gorilla business

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Africa » Equatorial Guinea » West » Bata
July 1st 2012
Published: July 1st 2012
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Abdón, one of the thesis students working with ZSL, and children with their fishing equipment
It’s been an eventful few weeks. When it comes to my tasks as an intern, it’s still mainly been entering data together with other staff members. I’ve also slowly started analyzing the data.. it is quite a job, and I wonder if we’ll manage to put something together before my supervisor is due to present some of the results in Mexico the second week of August..! With a bit of hard work it should be possible.

Some of the staff are not used to using programs like Excel, so partly I need to guide them through that before they're able to effectively assist with this bit.. They are the ones who go to the villages to carry out regular bushmeat monitoring activities and collect more data on the socio-economic situation, but when it comes to office work enthusiasm is sometimes lacking.. 😊

I was very happy myself to be able to join two field trips this far. We went to check photos from one camera trap that was set in the forest just to get some images of the species found in that particular area. The camera was on the other side of the country, next to Gabon border, and a good few hours walk into the forest, along an abandoned logging road currently used mainly by hunters. While reaching the camera we had to endure a disappointment though; it had not been working properly and there were no pictures. It was only first try with just one camera trap, but still a pity that one months waiting was for nothing.. We did have a nice night in the forest though, I got to test my new tent and it was just utterly relaxing to be away from city noises for a bit. As to wildlife we saw some gorilla tracks and a group of guenon monkeys, otherwise the bird and insect sounds filled the air while we pushed through the overgrown path. On the way back towards Bata we stopped in a village to meet one of the community assistants and instruct him with a new set of interview forms. However, he was not home, so our second trip objective was also only partly fulfilled. It is difficult to announce beforehand when a visit is planned since not everyone has mobile phones, and the ones who do don't always have reception. That can be tricky sometimes; even though EG is a small country, it still takes hours to reach the furthest villages.

It was great to see a bit how it looks like in the country..! The villages resemble Cameroonian country side a lot.. while the cities still strike me by some features; there are these grand villas and highways built in the bigger centers that are very distinctive but often seem quite out of place. Road construction is very prevalent: some of them will be multiple-lane highways. It is all fuelled by the oil industry I suppose.. Villagers need to move from their way, and they do increase risks associated with wildlife crossings and habitat fragmentation. On the other hand, driving on these smaller roads seems to be highly dangerous, and thus new roads hopefully help reduce severe car accidents.

Landscapes are beautiful; rolling, green misty hills and little forest streams, pristine rainforest and estuarine vegetation. There would be good spots for nature tourism, from the forest walks to turtle watching. Monte Alén national park has operated as an ecotourism destination, but currently these operations are infrequent. Maybe the country doesn’t especially tempt tourism, with the tricky bureaucracy.. What's pretty surprising really is that there

Our guide did not let us mingle with the cooking business.. and he truly did a great job with his machete.
are no management plans or infrastructure currently for the few national parks and nature reserves, logging companies also don’t have clear management or sustainability visions, and not many measures are currently taken to control hunting and other natural resource extraction. Wildlife Conservation Society is working in collaboration with the government body INDEFOR to put together new management plans for the protected areas, such that would from the beginning on involve the local communities in any possible way. The coastal areas don't get much attention either, in the law at least; and oil drilling doesn’t really make the picture more positive, for spilling and light pollution are already causing environmental damage that is not being quantified. These are just my current images of what’s going on.. all in all, when it comes to environmental planning, legislation and law enforcement, things are constantly developing and changing.

Cross-country collaboration with Cameroon, Gabon and other close-by countries is frequent, on the administrative level at least. I attended for a bit one PACEBco meeting (between-state African Development Bank project that concerns environment and natural resource management) that was held here in Bata; it took two long days altogether and they tried to put together further plans for funding and operation of conservation activities. Big things, decisions being made in a rather short time.. but indeed it was interesting to see. On the other hand, the actual work in the field is lacking many things.. For example, there is not much interaction and planning yet between the authorities of the two national parks that meet at Cameroon-EG border, Rio Campo and Campo Ma’an. During this bushmeat alternatives study, it would be very useful to include monitoring of bushmeat that crosses the border at various points, and for this to benefit both sides of the border, hopefully more contacts will be built in near future.

Equatorial Guinea is also part of a Gorilla agreement of Convention on Migratory Species. This means they should do all possible measures to ensure the survival and recovery of gorilla populations in the country, control hunting and selling of gorillas and promote educational activities. Very little is done in this respect.. For example, no legal measures have been taken against poachers or traders of gorillas in the country; there is also no such law enforcement body in the country as is found in Cameroon, replicated in Central African Republic, Gabon and Republic of Congo. Just two weeks ago we heard of a captured infant gorilla down at a beach restaurant. This is apparently not unusual, that people buy captured apes, monkeys and other wild animals and sell them forwards as pets. Often this is done by expatriates.. So now we are working on some educational materials to deliver to the expat and local community about effects of buying young apes and monkeys. Almost always they have been captured to be sold as pets, and in the process their families – even 5 or more adults for every one infant – are killed. The truth is that buying an infant ape found on sale does not help it, but only increases the demand and thus the killing of adult gorillas, chimpanzees and other animals. A captured infant gorilla or chimpanzee rarely survives more than a few weeks or months without specialist care.. We went to see this one in the restaurant, and it was desperately in need of attention and company while being kept in a wooden cage alone. This 2-year old female gorilla is in a pretty good condition, but without being taken to a care in a primate sanctuary

The baby gorilla kept in captivity, alone in a wooden cage while it should be surrounded by a caring family in the forest
it will most probably die.. there might be possibility for this one though to be transported into Mfou primate sanctuary in Yaounde, Cameroon, where it would be joined with other gorillas and thus would have a chance to survive the first years of its life when it is dependent on a care of a mother, before potentially being released into the wild when fully grown. There is no such sanctuary yet in Equatorial Guinea.

Ah well, that’s about work and worries.. I’ve also had the chance to relax and enjoy the company of some great people I’m learning to know a bit. We’ve had nice evenings in Bata, visiting each others homes for dinner, building a bonfire on the beach and visiting Hess compounds for some nice conversation and food. One night we went to the night clubs.. but I highly prefer a night out on the beach in the moonlight..! We went out with some Colombians, and one of them has the habit of asking “so.. what’s the plan?”, which I found very amusing due to a certain acquaintance who has a similar habit, and was wondering if it’s overall kind of a south American thing to say??

"Gloria the Gorilla", as a doctor at Hess wanted to name it, was very keen about Juliet's beautiful fair hair!
I’ve also bought a guitar! Now I have a good chance and a motivation to keep on learning to play.

Maybe seeing the captured baby gorilla made me even more motivated when it comes to work.. it represents a bit many things that are kind of twisted with humans; how we lack moral, how we can be ignorant, consciously or subconsciously, how greed, money and pride often go ahead of affection, love and compassion. When it comes to hunting a gorilla for food where it’s a custom for centuries and an important source of protein, it is a different thing to argue anything and more an issue of environmental education and alternative livelihoods.. But when it comes to trafficking of animals for “selfish” purposes, it is largely a matter of moral and law. In any case, it will be interesting to see what happens with this gorilla case..

still don't seem to be able to limit the word count..! thanks for bearing with me. Always look forward to hearing a bit from you guys as well by the way, so keep me posted sometimes.. 😊

greetings to all from Bata!


p.s. Adding

One of the last nights of Russell the English teacher in EG..
this note; I'll be writing some entries as private blogs. For certain things I prefer this, though still want to share with you these experiences.. So if you want to follow those as well, drop me a comment or send a message, and I'll invite you via e-mail and you'll be able to read those blog entries. You'll first need to sign up here on travelblog.org though - but it is quick to do.

Additional photos below
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.. he built a great bonfire for us - it fitted especially well since it was also the Finnish Midsummer night..!

Having brunch while visiting Hess, with Russell, Juliet and Heidi

Mapping exercise related to bushmeat monitoring. During another field trip, with a community assistant and ZSL staff member Baltasar

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