Red-capped Mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 0925660
The Red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus), also known as the white-collared mangabey, is one of the most distinctive-looking primates in the world. Large and gangling, with a tufted red skullcap, long black muzzle, a sharp white streak below the eyebrows, and white ruff, it can be mistaken for no other species. The species is Vulnerable and present only in the rainforests fringing the Gulf of Guinea from Nigeria to Gabon. The most threatened habitat for this species is community-owned forests outside of Protected Areas, because these constitute a readily accessible source of timber and farmland. Furthermore, being largely terrestrial, the Red-capped mangabey is easy to hunt. So Nigeria's large populations of humans seeking timber and bushmeat mean that its community forests are where the Red-capped mangabey is most under threat. Unfortunately this amounts to almost the entire western half of its range.
CERCOPAN** (see below) is the only organisation working directly for this species' in-situ protection outside Protected Areas. CERCOPAN houses the largest population of captive Red-capped mangabeys in the world, and these groups will be the basis for re-establishing flourishing populations in newly-protected forests where it is presently only occasionally seen.
CERCOPAN's programme to provide protection within community forests is through a multi-faceted approach of alternative livelihoods, environmental education, rainforest research, and restoration of forest primate communities. Concurrently the organisation reinforces the law that bans the hunting of primates, through confiscation jointly with authorities of primates orphaned by the bushmeat trade. These orphans are then rehabilitated and socialised into groups. CERCOPAN’S headquarters in Calabar contain facilities for the rehabilitation of over 100 primates. It is here where the process from ‘rescue to release’ begins. Many rescued primates arrive with injuries or are malnourished and dehydrated, so veterinary work is initially carried out prior to a 3-month quarantine period. Once this is complete the new arrival is carefully placed into a group environment, where it learns how to interact socially with others of its species. The captive primates at our Calabar site also serve as important ambassadors for conservation. Environmental education to almost 20,000 visitors a year is effecting a change in people’s attitudes in forest and urban communities where primates have been hunted, traded and/ or eaten.
In respect of protected release locations, CERCOPAN operates in partnership with Iko Esai village (a rural community 90km North of Calabar) who have committed to conserving 400 hectares of their forest from any kind of exploitation. A further 3,000 hectares is carefully managed to allow sustainable hunting and non-timber forest product extraction, but with a ban on logging and primate hunting. It is in this forest where the final stages of the rehabilitation process take place, and where release preparation begins. The site has an interim holding enclosure of natural habitat for rescued primates in the final stages of the process. Release candidates have the opportunity to learn the forest, with the chance to recognize the edible wild fruits and practise their reaction to predators. Currently we have over 60 release candidates being held in this enclosure and constant research and monitoring is being carried out to determine those most suitable for the first release. CERCOPAN has yet to reintroduce mangabeys into the forest, but in 2007 we released our first troop of rehabilitated primates (3 Mona guenons) back to the wild, as the first step in a programme of planned growth through scientific implementation.
The most important pre-cursor of all to a release is the elimination of hunting threats from the release site and its surrounding range. CERCOPAN is presently expanding its conservation influence to the neighbouring communities of Iko Esai, intending to gain agreements that will ensure a ban on the hunting of primates in the greater region. This will give firmer assurance that the ban on Iko Esai land is absolute. Pending the time when we can confidently move ahead with a release, we must continue with our programme of education, rescue, confiscation, rehabilitation, research and forest protection to maximise the chance of long-term success. The Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund grant is making an invaluable contribution towards the restoration of primate communities by supporting these activities.
** The Centre for Education, Research and Conservation of Primates and Nature (CERCOPAN), was founded in Nigeria in 1995. We are a non-profit organization and our mission is: “To conserve Nigeria’s primates through sustainable rainforest conservation, community partnerships, education, primate rehabilitation and research”. CERCOPAN employs local people throughout the organization wherever possible to encourage community participation, build trust and capacity, and also deliver tangible socio-economic benefits from conservation including eco-tourism. Visit www.cercopan.org and join our Facebook Fan Page for regular updates at www.facebook.com/cercopan/
Project 0925660 location - Nigeria, Africa