Tuesday, 30 December 2008


This is something that I always dreamed of, but never thought I would fulfill - to spend some time with chimpanzees. This was a wonderful, magical time for me.




This is me spending a magical afternoon with the gorillas. They were very curious and not aggressive


This is a wonderful female gorilla who I spent some time with one afternoon. She was very gentle and very curious. She eventually got hold of a stick and very gently poked my foot with it. Not in a malicious way, but in a soft, curious way.


This is me, Monica and Hose in banana hell. Each day there seemed to be a shortage of ripe bananas and the job was to sort through hundreds to find just a few ripe ones. A hot and sticky job. Here I am on the phone to my agent asking what had gone wrong...
Hose's father was apparently the local "man from del monte" as Del Monte actually donate all the bananas.

Monday, 29 December 2008


While the memories are still fresh in my mind, some chimpanzee observations: Well first of all, they are so incredibly strong! Even the little ones, their strength is absolutely amazing. Considering these captive ones don't spend all their days swinging through the forest their muscles are amazing. If we wanted physiques like them I should imagine we would have to spend hours every day lifting weights and training really hard. How on earth do they have such strong and well-toned muscles?

And their hair - I always thought it would be soft, like ours, especially the babies. But no. It's strong and wirey - more like a dog's coarse coat. And some of them, when you look through their hair, their skin is very much like mine, quite a light colour, the same as me.

When you look into their eyes it is amazing. Such a look of recognition back. Such a look of "sameness", familiarity, of coming home. Stunning. They know. And I know that they know.


This was a very very special moment for me. When a female chimpanzee reached out to me and I took her hand. A very unique and wonderful and touching moment, one I will never forget. It also saddens me. She was in a cage in quarentine, separated from the rest of the chimps to protect her and her little baby and I guess to give them space before they rejoined the group. She had a sadness about her. She needed to be romping through the forest (a few miles every day) with her own kind, far away from human intervention, cruelty and selfishness...

This is my hand holding a beautiful mummy chimp's hand as she reached out to me as she sat in quarentine. She had a lovely little baby. At first she was very wary of me and hid her baby, but as time went on she trusted me enough to actually touch her little baby

Sunday, 28 December 2008

This is the rough track leading up to the house. The green gate on the right is the entrance. We had to unlock this heavy gate, then there was a heavy metal outer door to the house, then an inner door. Phew.

This was our house. You can see the front here, where we dried our clothes.

Friday, 26 December 2008


Mandrills are related to the baboon and have a coat that ranges in color from dark brown to olive gray. The adult male has a bright red nose and blue cheeks and a blue rump. The colors on females and juveniles are much duller. Mandrills have cheek pouches that can hold a substantial quantity of food. They can use these to leave their hands free if they have to flee.

Mandrills live in rain forests with little ground cover. They are found in Africa from Camaroon to Guinea


This is a drill, an amazing, endangered monkey . The male drill is one of the most colourful monkeys in the world. When he is grown up he has a red chin on a black face with raised grooves exaggerating the shape of his nose. Also, his bottom is pink, mauve and blue! These bright colours help his family follow him through the forest.
The drill only lives in three countries: Cameroon's Southwest Province, South East Nigeria and Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea.

The drill is Africa's most endangered primate. A mother drill only has one young every six years, and a hunter can easily kill 30 Drills in a day. They are also losing their forest home


This is dear Little Monkey (Bobendina) chewing on a seed stick atop our sofa. A man handed in her in, after "discovering" her in the forest. He had most likely killed her mother, probably in front of her little eyes. I think he handed in another preuss monkey baby who eventually died. Sandy was nursing him and he contracted lockjaw, a terrible way to die. He was eventually put to sleep. But way to go Bobendina! x

Wednesday, 24 December 2008


Whilst in Cameroon I met some fascinating young women who are dedicated to the welfare and preservation of world wildlife, primates in particular.

Monica had just spent 6 months in the forest (her second time of doing this. There she cared for just chimpazees. She told me that once a whole group of chimpanzees escaped and went on the rampage. At the same time a group of dignitaries was visiting the centre and arrived by taxi. To their delight the vehicle was surrounded by chimps and they immediately began to take pictures. The chimps surrounded the car and apparently one of them smashed through the side window and hauled out the taxi driver, whereupon the whole group proceeded to tear him apart and kill him.

She also told me about a project she was working with in the US where a lady had dedicated her life to rescuing lab chimps and performing chimps too. Over the years the lady had got to know her beloved apes and grew very fond of them. She used to go into the enclosures and groom them and they her. One day one of the chimps had an argument with another and decided to take it out on the nearest primate - the lady. The chimpanzee violently attacked her, causing serious wounds.

I also heard about a chimpanzee that escaped its enclosure in a wildlife rescue centre. He attacked a keeper whom he knew, to whom he was usually very close. His canines ripped the man's face apart in a frenzied attack (he later spent a month in hospital). The man was able to fend the chimp off by punching it in the head. The chimp then jumped into the nearest gorilla enclosure, whereupon a gorilla, who had been watching the incident, proceeded to beat up the chimp.

These animals need to live in their natural habitat - the forest, where they are free to roam over many miles a day. There are many problems associated with re-release. One of them being that some primates, for example chimps and gorillas, are very susceptible to human diseases, even the common cold. They can die from contracting our threadworms, for example. So if any rescued animals are released into the forest, they could easily spread diseases which could potentially wipe out whole colonies of primates. There is also the continual problem of recapture - if you set animals free, then they are then free to be killed for bushmeat or captured for the illegal pet trade. Then there is deforestation - where do they live?

I heard able a terrible tale of corruption occuring in South East Asia. A rescue centre received £50,000 in funding to rescue and help ex laboratory monkeys. Which it did. But the centre also bred monkeys for research in another part of the country. So all they did was to "rescue" the monkeys from its breeding facilities and house them in its rescue centre, all in inadequate facilities.

When I was in Borneo one of the problems there is the ubiquitous logging and planting of palm oil. Flying low over the vast countryside, one becomes quite depressed at the sight of row upon regimented row of palm oil plantations, stretching for miles. The only animals which seem to thrive in this enviroment would be things like rats - not orangutans, silver leaf monkeys and proboscis monkeys.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

This is me and dear Little Monkey, having her morning milk.


Jacques the taxi driver arrived at midnight on the dot, as arranged. He had to change a tyre on the way, in the middle of no where. I held his mobile phone in leu of a torch. When we got to the city of Douala the road was dreadful; full of potholes, craters and terribly uneven. Because of this we often had to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid this, which was quite alarming when huge buses appeared to be driving straight towards you with their headlights blazing.

Got to the airport at 1.40. Jacques phoned the travel agent who was going to come with a better ticket (you couldn't read mine) but he said everything was okay and didn't need to come. I felt quite worried at the airport and Jacques said he would stay with me til check in, but he didn't, he slipped off into the night. I thought he was around, but he wasn't. I felt quite alone.

The airport appeared as if it was designed in the late 1960s, all brown and drab and dirty. When I went to the toilet it was quite terrifying as I discovered two wizened old women who appeared to be wrapped in bedsheets and were cackling like banshees or old witches. Later, as I was waiting on the hard plastic chairs, one of them sidled up to me and started cackling in my ear, which I studiously ignored, but was very, very worried...

At 3.10pm queued to check in my luggage. Was anxious as my ticket was illegible and was concerned I would be turned away. After much scrutiny was allowed to check in, thank the Lord. Whilst in the queue I observed a woman frantically sorting through her luggage as though she had forgotten something. She lifted a flimsy carrier bag out of her luggage and a load of mud-covered potatoes rolled around the floor. I couldn't believe my eyes! That she was taking a load of POTATOES and a few other vegetables (non-identified) on a plane!!!

There was absolutely NO indication anywhere as to where you had to go. There were monitors above the check-in but they were not on. I kept having to ask people where to go next. A man directed me down a long, dingy corridor to a funny little booth where a grumpy old hag took my exit tax money. She was so horrible and angry!

Eventually an immigration woman in uniform spent ages looking at my passport, handing it back to me and then demanding it back again. This happened about 3 times and she was really, really scary and very angry. She also made me fill out an immigration form, half of which I did not understand so left blank, but that didn't seem to bother her. She was so rude! Eventually I was gestered to go through x-ray wherupon I came across a sleeping man in uniform. He was so sound asleep I couldn't wake him up so looked to the woman for help and she angrily waved me through. So I tiptoed through the x-ray only to set it off. I guiltily looked around, expecting people to spring from nowhere and arrest me, but no one came. I went through to another empty dimly-lit corridor where a cleaner pointed me in the right direction for the gate.

Then another search, another passport and visa check, then I had to spend over an hour in a freezing, uncomfortable departure lounge. It was so very cold do to the air conditioning. I was so cold my teeth were chattering uncontrollably by the end of it. I smiled at a waiting passenger but she just scowled at me in an evil way. I couldn't wait to get on the plane!

I was so relieved when we eventually boarded the plane. At first it was a bit nerve-wracking as they lead us out of the departure lounge the wrong way, the way we had come in and I thought that the flight had been cancelled. It was so much warmer in the plane and I was able to sleep quite well, snugly wrapped up in an airline blanket. Bliss...

After around 6 hours we landed at Casablanca airport for 2 hours. A man directed me to a wonderful airport hotel which was actually inside the airport. There I was able to use a nice clean toilet and to email Dad to say I was on my way.

Met a nice lady on the way home on the plane. She was flying back to London after visiting her brother in Morocco. It was very sad as her sister-in-law had recently died from an asthma attack, leaving her brother with 3 children, including a year-old baby. The lady was hoping to adopt the baby and her heart was broken after having to leave the children behind.

After circling Heathrow for about half an hour to my relief we eventually landed, somewhat shakily. I was so relieved to collect my two bags (last week Liesbet didn't get her bag for about 3 days) and the first person I saw when I came through was dear Martin, ready to capture the historic moment with his camera phone. And one of the first things I did was to have sausage, beans and chips on the way home, which I ate alongside my worming tablets.


It was such a relief to at last be home, something I had been dreaming about. It felt as though I had been away for a year and it was so wonderful to see my three beautiful pussy cats - Binky, Kitty and Lilly. Binky snuggled under the duvet three times that night...


Had a lie-in. To my great relief didn't go to the toilet last night. Packed a bit. Left the house around 11am. Went to the Centre to take some last photos.

I ran Nature Club - the last one of the term before Christmas. The children finished making their finger puppets, then had fizzy drinks, then I performed a little puppet show, this time about Gah, a rescued chimpanzee who was shot in the spine and was paralysed in all his limbs when he was small. After intense therapy performed by the keepers and volunteers he regained the use of his arms and legs, albeit in a wobbly way. I then lead some games and finished by teaching the children how chimps move and talk to each other.

Afterwards we went to the cocktail bar for tea. Said goodbye to Ryan and Erica who own it, they are lovely. Jumped on a bike to get home and finished packing in the heat before taking a dustbin shower. Didn't see Fred, thank goodness. (Fred Scuttle the cockroach, who lives behind the dustbin in the toilet)

The last thing I did today was to go and see Little Monkey in the preuss enclosure. She was the smallest monkey there and looked up and saw me. Recognising me, she came over and chirruped and put out her little hands to me. I held them and felt sad, felt like crying. But she is in the best place for her (apart, of course, from the forest). I pray for her and love her.

After packing and washing I sat outside with Emily, Monica and Leisbet. They tried to stay up and wait with me but they managed it til 11.15, how sweet. Said my goodbyes.


Woke up and did some washing and also emptied the fly-ridden bin the in the kitchen and fed Mowgli the black cat. Honestly, we are living in squalor. Small insects crawling and jumping on my bed, worms squirming on the tiled floor, huge cockroaches on the kitchen surfaces, lack of cleaning materials, lack of water (no hot), flushless toilets, stifling heat - the list is endless.

Had some rehydration salts. It was comforting as they were made by the chemist where my sister works. Had 2 bananas and read and dozed.

At 4.30 Simone and Emily dropped by to see how I was and to see if I still wanted to go out tonight. I started to feint so lay on the floor.

Later I settled on the sofa with a magazine. Monica and Liesbet came in got ready to go out, minus Little Monkey. What a shock! She has been introduced to the rest of the preuss monkey group! It will be so much better for her. I pray that she will be safe, peaceful and happy. Dear little thing.

I am so excited. So excited to be going home on Sunday. It is wonderful. Can't wait to get on the plane.

In the evening started to despair as I went to the loo 3 more times, after a 12 hour gap. So I turned to Psalm 91 ("because she loves me I will deliver her") and I was ill no more.


Had a great afternoon photographing the animals. It was wonderful, it is what makes me really feel alive, much more alive than sweeping and cleaning. And the man whom I was working with this morning was very unkind and spoke to me very harshly.

Anyway, I spent over an hour sitting next to the gorillas, I sat really close to the fence and it was wonderful. At first I was wary, but the gorillas were very calm, unlike the chimps, who have a tendency to throw things - rocks and poo - at you.

I sat for ages with a large female gorilla. She was extremely interested in me. At first I was a bit wary and every time she moved I jumped out of my skin, until I realised that she was very calm and merely taking an interest in me and was not a threat, and also didn't see me as a threat. We were so close to each other (of course with a fence between us). She looked deep into my eyes as though trying to work out who I was and also what sort of person I was. She obviously liked what she saw. Later on she took hold of a stick, looked left and right and slowly slid the stick out on the ground to poke me with it. Not in a hostile way, but in a curious, nosy way. She kept poking my sandal. It was when she became more bold and held it at head height and took an interest in my face that I moved out of the way! I slowly made my way along the fence, managing to take some pics of the other gorillas. But she kept getting in the way, as if she wanted my sole attention. Then she did something astonishing - she cautiously slid her big black hand under the fence. So I held it. Absolutely stunning. What an experience, one I will never forget.

In the evening had a sore throat and didn't feel so well. So went to bed early. To my great dismay was ill thoughout the night - had the runs and to my horror actually pooed myself three times and had to wash my underwear. It was very distressing as I will be flying home soon and was so very worried that I wouldn't be well enough. When I told Monica in the morning she said not to worry, it is a very common occurence and that you only need to be concerned if it lasts more than a week...

In the night I was so worried, as the toilet doesn't usually flush in the morning and I made plans to go in the garden. Luckily it didn't come to this as the toilet did flush.

Thursday, 18 December 2008


Last night I hopped on a motorbike and went into town to buy a sim card for my phone, then went to the local market for some veg. After a quick dash home on another bike I cooked some spaghetti and the vegetables and Emily popped out to get some fish and bread.

Third day in quarrentine and we began by feeding the baby chimps their milk and also Little Monkey, then we swept the chimps' playground. The morning continued cleaning, sweeping and hosing down.

I plan to concentrate on photography this afternoon and tomorrow, which shall be my last full day. I can't wait to get home!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


Well, what a wonderful way to spend the afternoon - being a playmate to four young chimpanzees...

These chimps are orphans and they are too small to join the rest of the chimps for the moment. Some have been hand reared by other volunteers. They LOVE to have human friends to play with. Before I entered their playground I had to remove everything that they could get hold of: bandana, necklaces and anything in my pockets as they are very adept at picking pockets. As soon as I let myself in I was covered in chimpanzees! From head to foot, they were clinging on to me and thought it was wonderful fun. Boy, was I hot! Their little bodies are really warm and hairy. Actually chimps' hair is very couse, I always thought it might be softer.

I sat on a rock while they continued their assault of this new ape. They were climbing all over me and also jumping on my head. They are so strong - even at that age! After a while things settled down and most of them left me alone and went back to their play. The smallest one, a little girl, was being pulled about by her arms and legs by the others, especially the biggest one. So I told him off and she was screaming and ran to me and clung to me like there was no tomorrow, oh she was so desperate for my protection from the bully boys. The big chimp took to swinging from a tyre and kicking me with a well-aimed foot, or jumping on me, or running up behind me and thumping me on the back, hard. (Like being at school, in the playground). And he was generally trying to bother the little chimp. So eventually I became the prime ape by screaming at him as chimps do and raising my hand, so he ducked and showed submission. This little exchange went on for quite a while until, at last, he was, quite literally, licking my boots! And the little monkey fell asleep in my arms: bliss. When I had to leave it was very difficult to prise her off me.

I went home with Liesbet and Little Monkey. In the meantime a new volunteer arrived, Monica from the US. She has just spent 6 months working in the Cameroon forest looking after chimpanzees, so she thinks our cockroach-ridden house is like a hotel!

Emily joined us all and we walked up the track to the local shops, which are wooden shacks. We bought some fish and bread and beer and took it back for a feast, including my mayonnaise. I let Liesbet have Little Monkey in her room as she loves her so much. Liesbet is a sensitive, caring lady. She also loves Mowgli, the cat, who also behaves like a little monkey, jumping around and generally causing havoc.

My second day on quarrentine. I helped Frou give the baby chimps their milk, a lovely task. Then I made Little Monkey's milk and fed her too and fetched her some breakfast from the kitchen - banana and orange.

I had a wonderful time photographing some yellow weaver birds who were nesting in the trees.

I had an even more wonderful time photographing two nursing mother chimps with their little offspring. I thought they might be aggresive towards me but gradually they trusted me, which was fantastic. I began by filling a bottle with water and feeding it to the mothers. They gulped and guzzled whilst all the time looking me directly and profoundly in the eye. I was so touched when they eventually showed enough trust for me to actually touch their babies. But I didn't do much of this as I didn't want to push it.

This morning they tried to introduce Little Monkey to a female preuss monkey who is in quarrentine with a bad leg. But she was not a bit interested. However, the two funny-looking putty nose guenons in the cage next door took a great interest, and LM was quite curious about them too. Apparently occasionally cross species will adopt offspring, so maybe this will happen?

Had a very interesting conversation with Frou. He is a very intelligent man who did two years of a geology degree, which he is now continuing part-time due to lack of funds. We had an indepth discussion about George Bush, American and African politics: very informative. Afterwards I asked about his family and he told me that his mother had been killed. I said I was sorry and that when did this happen? He told me it was only a month ago: she had been walking home from the fields and someone had hit her on the head a couple of times with a rock or something. Well, I could not believe it, I felt so sorry, he was being so brave and I just weeped. He seems like a good man - what a thing to happen. But we both belive that she is now here with him and can share in what he does with the animals every day, which must be some kind of comfort - I know it would be for me.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008


Well I am officially Little Monkey's Mummy (her real name is Bobendina) After working with the drills yesterday and narrowly missing dodgy rock throwing from the baboons I was presented with her carrying case (just like a cat carrier) Well I had very heavy camera equipment and also lots of heavy bananas, so there was nothing for it but to flag down a passing bush taxi. They are always full of sweaty people and they just squash you in. Except that nobody helped me, they all just gave me dirty looks in their splendid robes. So I had to squeeze in along with my precious child, bananas and camera lenses.

After a quick dunk in the dustbin water I gave Little Monkey her evening bottle of milk, which she enjoyed. Sometimes I squeeze it slightly too hard and she jumps a mile! She is so very sweet though, and when you are feeding her she occasionally gazes up at you, just to make sure you are "all right". I do love her. When she has eaten a little fruit she then spends the rest of the evening leaping around the room just like a - monkey! She is still waiting to join the other guenons but it is not convenient at the moment.

A new volunteer arrived today, Liesbeth from Holland. She is lovely and cares passionately about animals and their welware. I emailed her a couple of times before I came away. Unfortunately the airline has mislayed her suitcase so I leant her a couple of items. I hope she gets it back soon. She was very excited that we have a dear little monkey to look after!

Was placed on quarantine today (no, not in quarantine!) I started by bottle feeding three baby chimps - so sweet! Their bottles are a lot bigger than Little Monkeys and they also drink their milk so much faster! Then I helped give out bananas to them and two adult chimps with little babies. We also fed some other monkeys, tarantulas? My goodness they were vicious! They had bright blue testicals and also a red penis - very attractive. But you musn't get too close to the cage or they will grab you viciously.

Then we had no water for quite a while so cleaning was delayed. Eventually I swept and hosed down and scrubbed the cages. There is also an African eagle owl who is blind in one eye. Some of the local people believe they are associated with witchcraft and kill them. This particular bird can't be released because of its sight defect (it now has one eye smaller than the other) but is being trained to fly and catch prey for educational purposes. So all is not lost.

This afernoon I am hoping to be able to go into the baby chimp enclosure to play with them. Apparently they go through your pockets, so you have to empty them first. Watch this space...

Monday, 15 December 2008


Got back yesterday and had a chat with Patricia. Then her, me and Sandy went out up the dirt track onto the street to have some soya (on skewers, like satay sticks). You pay a boy who is cooking them and eat them at a wooden table on the street, under roofs made of banana leaf matting. I thought, wow, this is good soya! Until it was explained to me that soya around here is actually beef. We had a beer too and the African pop music was blaring and pulsating. On the way we passed makeshift shops which were small wooden shacks. One was a hairdresser's, full of old-fashioned big hair dryers. Sandy explained that the local women love to change their hairstyles frequently and that the salon would be open all night as it takes so long!

Started working on drills and mandrills (and baboons) today, with Victor. We started by sweeping out their cages, then Victor hosed them down (the cages, not the monkeys...) and I dumped the waste. This all took quite a while. Later we fed them their morning bananas. Was a bit scarey by the baboons as one of them threw a rock at me. Phew. After lunch we fed them a mixture of carrots, tomatoes, apples, etc, which they seemed to like.

Sunday, 14 December 2008


Hello all!

After the Nature Club went into town with Sandy and she showed me where to buy pasta. which was most helpful. She bought a DVD in the market and I took some pics until a man objected. Honestly! Then we met Patricia and Emily, Simone and Vim at a new outdoor bar. It's very pleasant there and it's run and owned by a lovely couple, Erica (from S Africa) and her husband Ryan, who is a local man. They made us very welcome with their wonderful cocktails. We also had some toast and toppings. It was lovely to see their little well-fed ginger cat, too. Erica kindly gave me some play balls for our cat, who is a bit lonely and needs something to play with. The others went on so that left me, Patricia and Sandy. Ryan then made us free cocktails, which was very sweet of him. They also sell art and crafts made by local people. I said Martin might be interested in the masks and carvings when he comes. I asked Erica if she could do us a good price...

We then went further into town by the sea front. We went to a crowded fish cafe. You choose your fish, which looks partially cooked, then they cook it and bring it to you down by the sea. The sea is brown which matches the brown volcanic sand. Unfortunately there is also a tide line of rubbish and the sea has waste dumped into it. But apparently you can get a taxi to a nearby nicer beach for not much money. So I would like to do that. I have also discovered that for just over a pound you can use the nearby hotel's pool, which will be lovely, as it is always so very hot here.

So we were served our fish and we ate it with our hands, though they do provide a bowl of water with which to wash your hands. The fish cost just over a pound each. Then I hopped on the back of a motorbike and went home whilst the other two stayed on for a drink.

Came home and spent some quality time with Little Monkey. Apparently she was rescued with another little boy monkey, but he died. Sandy said it was horrible, he died of tetanus and his whole body went rigid. So sad. But at least Little Monkey has made it! Apparently she has grown a lot in the intervening months since rescue. I think the man who shot her mother handed her in. He spun some story along the lines of he had just discovered her in the forest. She may be joining the group of Preuss monkeys tomorrow, where hopefully a female with adopt her and who will then carry her around as though she were her own baby.

Had a nice lie-in then washed from the dustbin as no running water again. Then me, Patricia and Sandy each hopped on the back of a motorbike and road in convoy up a dirt track past banana plantations to a hotel on the top of a hill, which overlooked Limbe and the sea. When you order a meal in Cameroon, or at least around here, they say you have to do so before you are hungry as you have to wait so long. About an hour.

After our meal we walked down the dirt track and managed to flag down a bush taxi which took us back into town. It was lovely and airy and breezy up the top of the hill.

Saturday, 13 December 2008


Forgot to tell you all about living outside your usual, lovely, wonderful comofort zone. Well I am learning to do just that! The heat here is something else - it is all emcompassing, unrelenting HEAT and wet and humidity. I find if I make the slightest effort to do something or even THINK about doing something I get very very hot and very very wet...even your knickers...ew. Good job I have encountered this before, in Borneo, but then of course I wasn;t working in it. You can't open a window in the house as horrible bugs and mosquitos will fly in and devour your lovely white virgin foreign flesh. Fortunately there is mesh on our windows and they are louvred and open. but obviously it's not the same as flinging open a window wide.

then there is the water situation: you go for a shower, or to wash your hands, or to wash a plate - and there is no water! You either wait a few mins/hours for it to come back on or you use some water that you have previously saved in a bucket or dustbin.

We have worms and cockroaches in our house, so you are never alone...the cockroaches are HUGE and God only knows where these squirming worms come from.

I can't get my clothes really clean, but that's not too bad, as long as they are washed. But then there is the problem of drying them in case this horrible fly thing comes along and lays its eggs in your damp washing. The eggs then hatch out under your skin when you wear the garment...

I have rigged up a little washing line inside my wardroom for small items, like underwear. Not exactly a xmas garland, eh..?


Took another taxi bike home last night - exhilerating dashing through the hot night air and it beats walking when you are carrying your shopping! Sandy was viewing some videos on her laptop that she had made, mainly of her caring for different primates. One of whom, Anjibolo, is a baby gorilla whom she was given the responsibility of caring for 24 hours a day for a while. I also watched her videos of her time working for CWAF in Cameroon where she spent long days in the forest with two young chimps which were in her constant care, along with a baby macaque. Wow.

Had a nice lie in today, the got some lunch ready and fed the cat.

This afternoon was Nature Club, which meets every week at the Centre from 2-4pm. The children were older than I thought they would be - the youngest looked about 7 or 8 and the oldest was 16, mainly boys, which was also a surprise. They seemed quite shy and wary of me at first. I have heard that in some schools it is quite common for the teachers to beat the children so maybe they were waiting for me to produce my stick...

I took them to study the chimps and also the wonderful mandrills, so see what colour they were. Then we returned to the classroom where they coloured in some finger puppets that I had designed and photocopied for them. The end of the session was taking up with my own puppets - I told them the story of Chella, a male gorilla, who was discovered in the back of a taxi when he was a tiny baby, alongside his dead mother and a stash of illegal drugs. He eventually ended up in the local police station where the police tried to care for him but didn't know what to feed him so he ended up malnnorished and also dehydrated after drinking only beer. Along with Simone and Wilson's help I told them about how he ended up at the Centre and was restored to health. I then produced a tiny baby gorilla puppet. Later I asked if the children if they would like to see what Chella looks like now and they said Yes! And so I produced a huge silverback puppet, much to their amusement. We ended the story by the children taking turns giving him "high five". We also ended up in a group hug, or rather a "squeeze" from some of the more enthusiastic children. I asked them if they wanted to come next week and they said yes so i told them to be on time as some of them were late and the club was half an hour starting.

So now am on here talking to you. Sandy is going to show me a shop tonight where I can get some pasta as am getting fed up with eating bananas...

Yesterday was another "first" - one I thought I would never achieve - I touched a chimp's hand! She was in a cage and Sam was feeding her peanuts so i did too and I touched her huge fingers - they resemble a huge, black bunch of bananas. Wonderful.

Friday, 12 December 2008


Dear all

Have been working again with the little monkeys today - the guenons and mangabeys. Yesterday when I went back one of the guenons was sick so it had to be caught, which takes at least two people as they are so agile, even when sick. So Sam, another man and Theresa the other volunteer entered the cage with a huge capture net. After much scrabbling about and chasing, Patricia eventually cornered the monkey, but it was up high. So without so much as a thought she climbed up and grabbed its tail and eventually brought it down. Phew!

Last night caught up on some washing and spent some more precious time with Little Monkey. She perched on top of my book - good job it was a thick paperback...

Was rudely awoken this morning at 6am by the a man's voice which was amplified by a megaphone; every time he spoke (shouted) a large crowd of voices shouted back, enthusiastically. It sounded like an outdoor church. It was so loud! And not welcome...zzz. (I think even God was covering His ears at that hour) This followed a short bout of thunder and lightening.

Later I told Sam about the early morning preaching and he said that he gets up in the middle of the night sometimes to pray for an hour and a half. He obviously takes his religion very seriously

Today was Patricia's last day as a volunteer after three months and she is going back to France. I must admit feeling a little envious as I wouldn't mind going back home as I am missing everyone. She bought all the ingredients for our lunch today - a mixture of spaghetti, yams, spinach-type veg, and a hot fish stew, followed by donoughts and washed down with coke and other fizzy delights. I discovered today that most afternoons are relatively free, with most of the work being done in the morning. So after lunch, at 1pm I was free until 4pm.

So - I decided to be really brave and adventurous and venture into town for some supplies. I have been too afraid to before. I took the bull by the horns and flagged down a passing taxi, which is in fact a motorbike. You agree the price - 150 francs (20p) and they take you into town. The man wanted to charge me 400f but I said no and stuck to my guns! Well it was quite exhilerating, zooming along (I told him not to go fast, so that was okay) with the hot wind in our hair (well mine, anyway). I felt soo pleased with myself. When I got off had no idea where to go, was looking for a little food store that Sandy had shown me the other day. There were market stalls every where, selling fruit, peanuts, books, shoes and DVDs. Eventually I found the shop I was looking for - horaay. I bought lots of sardines, some tomato puree and a fanta orange. I walked back and bought some bananas from an old lady who had a stall by the side of the road. Six bananas for 20p!

Then I came to the internet shop but it wasn't working so went back to the Centre for the afternoon. I had about one and a half hours to kill but it was fine. I spent some time with the little duiker (like a tiny antelope) and it gently licked my hand with a little hot tongue. Then I spent the rest of my time with the lovely colourful mandrills. My goodness - another handsome species! I spent ages sitting quite close to a male, who took great delight in me. He flashed me his teeth which I have been assured is a sign of friendliness, so I flashed mine back ( my teeth). It was great fun. I took some nice shots too. Finished off the day by feeding the mangabeys and guenons.

Tomorrow I will help with the Nature Club. I will be making finger puppets with the children who attend and also I will be performing an inpromptu puppet show. I hope they like it!

Just received a lovely message from Dad. He asks if the animals have names, well they do, but I don't know them! There are so many and they all look alike. And Little Monkey has a name but i can never quite catch it when people say it and i don't like to ask, so to Aunty Jane she is Little Monkey. Most of the animals are named after the places where they were rescued, like Douala, or after the people who rescued them.

Thursday, 11 December 2008


Hello all

Had a nice evening yesterday. Staggered up the road with my heavy bags, including bananas and apples from the market. I made sure I got home before dark this time - much easier! And I was greeted by the welcome sight of Little Monkey in her carrier case, on the sofa. So I let her out and she immediately started jumping around. Then I bottle fed her from a tiny bottle! I had to put her back while I had a shower. Again, there was no water, so had to wash using a dustbin full of collected water from the shower and a mug. But that's okay, it was better as I could stop my feet from getting wet as I have a blister that I need to keep dry.

I had my tea on the patio with our resident cat. But he wouldn't stop jumping about and trying to eat my tea (a sort of pastie) and an apple so I went back indoors. He also ran into the house which he isn;t allowed to do so had to chase him back out!

The rest of the evening was spent reading in my room, a great delight.

I joined Sam today for two days of looking after small monkeys - mangabeys and guenons. They are very sweet. We chopped up some fruit for them and then fed them and also gave them bananas. The smallest monkeys were very curious to meet me so I stood next to the cage to let them reach out and examine their new keeper. They like to touch you and then sniff your hand. They also wanted my watch and my hair band! At one point one of them was grooming my hair.

Sam cleaned the cage and I carried the bucket to the rubbish tip outside the centre. Then we moved on to the mangabeys. We had to pass the screaming chimpanzees. Honestly, they make soo much racket, it's like passing a mental asylum...when they go off all the other animals look alarmed. Not sure I want to work with them as they have a habit of throwing their poo and stones at you (!) So I may pass on that one.

Anyway we fed the mangabeys their fruit and bananas and Sam began cleaning their cage. He also cleaned out the African grey parrots' food tray. There are quite a few of them, I think they were smuggled as pets. They hang around as they don't have enough wing feathers to fly yet. It's great seeing them all in the trees and hearing their whistles and distinctive noises. We used to have one as a pet so their sounds in particular remind me of dear Kiki.

Sam had to separate the large aggresive mangabey male from the cage so he could clean it without being attacked. So he chucked a hard-boiled egg and some monkey nuts into an adjoining section and it took a lot of patience and waiting until the male entered the cage. He was torn between wanting the egg and also his freedom. Sam said you have to use a lot of brain power when working with monkeys, more than the people who work in the office. You have to outsmart them and think like a monkey!

We had some free time so I spent it trying to take pics of the monkeys. Boy were they difficult! They kept trying to grab my camera and at one point I had a right old tug of war match with a large mangabey. One smacked me on the face too, so I will have to be careful!

Then it was lunch of some strange looking stuff served up in a palm leaf. Quite tasty though, to my relief.

And to my delight Sam has just told me that we are not needed until 3pm to feed the parrots, so that gives me an hour and a half! So that's why I've come down here to update you all.

Patricia has asked me to take Tiny Monkey home today as she is busy. So that will be interesting, carrying her case up the road.

And Eveline has invited me to her house on Saturday week to meet her son and she said she will help me to plan the two weeks when Martin comes. She has offered to take us by bus up to the north, so we shall see.
She admired my wellies today (pink and paisley) so I think I will give them to her. Hope they are her size.

A man fixing the roof asked me for my phone number today so I told him my husband would be angry and he immediately backed off and apologised. Now when I smile at him he looks away, a complete contrast to the other day!

I might sit with the drills before feeding the parrots. When I walked past the drills carrying my bucket one was nonchalantly sitting outside the enclosure, casually passing the time of day. I looked twice to confirm that she was in fact outside of the cage. I told the keeper but he wasn't particularly worried and said she does that a lot, escapes, but comes back again. Talking of which, one of the little geunons has a back leg missing. Jack told me that she escaped one for a few days and eventually made her way back to the centre where she thought she was safe. Unfortunately she entered the chimps' enclosure, where they set upon her and tried to tear her apart...phew!

So as well as entertaining Little Monkey plan to wash some clothes tonight (you get so filthy here) and then to read

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Hello all, well I had a lovely evening with me and the little monkey (and she was a little monkey - wouldn't keep still, jumped around all over the place, tried to remove my earrings, sat on my head, played with my hair, nibbled feet, grabbed a bite of my mars bar when I wasn't looking and wee wee - ed on the chair...)

Woke up this morning and felt sad again. We left the house at 7.30 for a 10 minute walk to the wildlife centre. Just before the raising of the flag I felt terrible, so sad and homesick and I had to fight back the tears so no one noticed. So I decided to stay in the moment, to work on that, which is always a valuable thing to do, wherever you are in the world. Began the day greeting Eveline in the kitchen and we sorted bananas again, then it was on to chopping veg for the gorillas. Later in the morning Simone took me into town into the old market where I could at last exchange some money. We went to a tiny pokey shop which sold washing powder, honey, etc. I felt rich! Yesterday I had virtually no money and had to but an item back in the bakery. Bought some apples and bananas which was great, as I feel I need some fruit. Then back to the centre for lunch. There was great excitement as apparently a large python had appeared and scared the living daylights out of some of the keepers! It soon slithered away though, proving the old adage: "it's more scared of you than you are of it..." Which reminds me. Yesterday I saw a python in a cage here, along with a lovely fluffy bunny rabbit. I was horrified to discover was, yes you've guessed it - food for the python! But he didn't want it so now the rabbit is in a cage. But for how long I don't know. It's just like a pet rabbit that we would have but it was sold in the market to eat.

After lunch I met Wilson, who is in charge of education and I showed him my puppets and we had a chat about what we are going to do at the children's Nature Club on Saturday.

Afternoon was taken up with chopping fruit - maybe guava?? And tidying up, and also cooking loads of rice and beans and veg on a large wood burning oven in a shed. Honestly, these gorillas eat better than us!

To my great delight we finished today at 3.20 so I was free to spend the rest of the afternoon meeting the drills. These are wonderful monkeys with expressive faces which are black, just like an African mask. I had the great privilege of being able to get close to the wire. I just sat there for an hour. A large male took an interest in me and eventually showed me his pink and blue bottom, which apparently means he likes me...every time any smaller ones came along to take a look at the large human monkey, he chased them away. Anyway, it was an afternoon of great submission from many of the drills and then the mandrills as they all took turns to come up to me and to show me their bottoms! Well what a sight...and of course I complemented each one on their colourful posterior. Well it's only polite, isn't it, if someone takes the time to be so intimate with one??

Later on I studied the mandrills - they are sooo amazing with their wonderful red and blue faces. If you've never seen one, then google them! Apparently they are the strongest monkey species, so it's a good job they liked me, eh? One even smiled at me by showing his yellow teeth. Their fur positively glows, it is so fine and multicoloured.

So I had a wonderful time, taking lots of lovely pics. On the way I met an olive babboon who was very friendly and wanted to hold my hand. I found some fruit on the floor and gave it to him and he took it very gently. Very sweet. I thought he might snatch aggresively, but no.

So here I am catching up with you all and shall head back to the house before it;s dark, last night I went back in the dark and couldn't find the right house and tried to unlock gates of the wrong residence...phew was very sweaty, up a narrow rocky track with people passing silently like mysterious shadows in the darkness. Was I pleased to find the right house and get in!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


Well Patricia has just informed me that the monkey is in the lounge and when I get back I can let her out of the box and play with her!!! Deep Joy xx


Hello all

Well I'm here, after a long journey - a what a shock to the system! I thought I was well-travelled, but yesterday I was ready to get the next plane home...

After two flights via Casablanca (both delayed) I finally touched down in Douala, Cameroon. As we landed early in the morning I could see vast stretches of rainforest and snaking tributaries, followed by the nowadays ubiquitous stretches of palm oil plantations. The airport was as I expected, hot hot hot! After filling in forms and passing through (breath held in case my visa was not correct) I entered the steaming chaos of the baggage hall; luckily I had been prewarned and was ready to deflect the offers of "help" from the various men lurking around. Apparently they help you with your bag and then demand around 50 euros for their trouble! So I was steaming hot after wearing various layers of clothing for a British frosty winder, and kept peeling off layers until decency prevented me from taking off any more! I was victorious in my discovery of a trolley and managed, eventually to get both my large bags. A man followed me to "Nothing to declare" and took his opportunity to pounce when the grumpy customs woman started going on at me and of course I had no idea what she was on about! I eventually realised she wanted me to open my bags. Honestly, is the art of mime dead?! She rifled through without actually looking, not noticing the gorilla, chimp and monkey puppets stashed in my luggage...

I managed to shake off the demanding man and with one last super human effort squeezed myself out of the door away from the steaming mass of humanity. With relief I spotted Jacques my taxi driver holding the wonderful sign bearing my name.


It only took 1.5 hours to get to Limbe and we went straight to the wildlife centre. I met Simone who co-ordinates the volunteers and she showed me round. The first animals I encounted were the wonderful gorillas. And wow you should see the mandrils!!!! Their pink and blue bottoms positively GLOW with colour. Amazing. Can't wait to photograph all these wonderful animals.

Anyway, after a while I was left to my own devices. I felt in no man's land as everyone was busy and I had hardly slept but I couldn't go to the volunteer house yet and so couldn't unpack or anything. I was feeling very emotional and realised just how much I was missing Martin and what a wonderful rock he is in my life. I felt as though I was missing a limb, it was so very painful. And I missed my dear pussies too...

Eventually Simone took me by car to the volunteer house which is only 10 minutes' walk. We unloaded my luggage and proceeded to unlock various gates and doors in order to actually get in the house itself. I was hearted to meet a dear little pussy cat who lives in the house, well more specifically, outside the house as he is not allowed in. So sweet :)

I was introduced to a girl called Sandi who was very welcoming. After unpacking a bit and making my double bed I managed a shower ( when I arrived there was no water which is a constant occurance) Then crashed out for an hour or so.

Sandi was so kind and offered to show me round the town and take me for supper. You see I was very nervous and unsettled and this was just what I needed; a friendly face who showed great kindness. Sandi is a very interesting character; I think she volunteered in Limbe for over a year, that's how much she loves it. And she was also working with CWAF also in Cameroon. She told me the story of how she was given the tremendous priveledge and responsibility of being Mum to a baby chimp for I think it was 5 months. He clung to her all day and every day and she tended to his needs. She only managed to untangle him when he fell asleep...anyway she said that he became very ill and they tried to get some medicine from the vets but it was too late and he died in her arms. Oh my gosh, what a story. But we agreed that even if his dear life was short that at least he had a lovely time with Sandi, it was a life of quality and love. I told her it was good that she was with him at the end.

Anyway, after showing me round Limbe we met some of the others for a drink and then went to a restaurant for their famous pork and chips. But by this stage I was an emotional wreck, feeling so terribly homesick and missing Martin dreadfully. And on top of all this Sandi said that someone tried to mug her, by stealing her bag as they passed on a motorbike. She also said that some boys had been banging on the gate of the house. And when I enquired about washing my clothes I was told that if I hang them out to dry then a certain fly will lay its eggs in my clothes and when I wear them the eggs will hatch under my skin...happy days...but if you

a hang your clothes inside
b iron them
c wait three days to wear them

Then you will be fine. !!! Then I was told that the food will be spicey and difficult to digest, so what with the food, the lack of water, missing Martin and my family and cats, muggings and finally the last straw of flies hatching under my skin I felt utterly desolate...and then I was told about the local men who will make a beeline for you and be very amorous...

Anyway, are you still with me?

Sandi knew I was upset and very kindly took me to the internet place so I could email home as I was having trouble texting. Was so very frustrating receiving a text from my dear sister Annie and not being able to reply or send one at all.

I emailed Dad, Annie and Martin and told them of my plight. I asked Dad to look into flights for me so I could return home asap. I confided about this to Sandi and she said that that would be a shame but obviously I had to do what I had to do. You know, as well as volunteering in Cameroon Sandi has just returned from another African country (never heard of it) where she tracked and recorded gorillas - their movements and habits. she is waiting to hear whether she has a job in Rwanda rehabilitating gorillas....wow.

Anyway we staggered up the uneven road together with the aid of her (intermittent) wind up torch. I was sobbing tears but she didn't seem to mind and said was very natural to feel this way.

When I went to bed the mobile rang at nearly midnight and it was my dear Dad who had managed to hook up my sister for a conference call. They were so kind and advised me not to be too hasty and to give it a little time. Dad promised to look into the possiblity of return flights though. It was so very comforting to hear their voices and to be able to speak to them. It made me realise how much I love them. I put the light off and the mobile rang once more - it was Martin:) My dear darling man. He was very sweet and told me what he had been up to, trying to record and watch the Sarah Jane Adventures and feeding the cats their luxury food which he doesn't normally as all they do then is moan for more, he usually leaves that task up to me...it was lovely to talk to him, a bit of "normality". We were cut off near the end though as my mobile ran out of credit - I have since found out that it costs one pound 30p a MINUTE for me to RECEIVE calls in Cameroon! So that's my total budget of nearly 40 quid blown in one fell swoop. So thank GOD for email and the internet!

I woke up with not too much time to spare. Got up 7.05 and cleaned teeth and discovered that there was no water. The worm was still in the shower though...oh yes, that reminds me a damn cockroach came under the door last night and I was NOT pleased!!

Anyway, was introduced to a beautiful little baby monkey who is sharing our house. She is a preuss monkey and her mother was killed by a poacher. Patricia, another volunteer, is her mummy at the moment. She sleeps in her room, Patricia bottle feeds her and takes her to the centre every day in a carry case. She is adorable and she took to me straight away, which is apparently unusual. I sat on the tiled floor and let her come to me - eventually curiousity took a hold and she jumped on my shoulder and proceeded to take great interest in examing my face - particularly my nostrils which she prised open wide with little monkey hands. So funny and sweet. I stuck out my tongue and she put it in her mouth! I swiftly withdrew it when her teeth appeared though...

We left the house at 7.30 am, with me chewing on some bread for breakfast (no time, no time!) At 8am every morning the Cameroon flag is raised at the centre and you must stand to attention in silence and everyone removes their hats. Apparently it is a great crime to be late or miss this daily ceremony...

I started work in the kitchen, preparing food for the animals. I will be doing this tomorrow too. A lot of time was taken up with sorting out HUGE piles of green bananas, you have to find the ripe ones and discard the rotten ones. Well at one point I think I was in danger of experiencing a banana avalanche, great was the new pile of green rejected bananas...

Later on I prepared the gorillas' lunch - chopped tomatos, onions, carrots, green beans which was cooked with rice. Everything had to be chopped "just so" as they are very particular. When I mentioned to the lady with whom I was working that the gorillas think they are in hotel she thought this very funny and after that thought I was great fun. she has invited me round to her house sometime to meet her little boy.

I also roasted soya beans, washed up, tidied and sorted MORE bananas. By the afternoon it was very hot and I drank at least 5 litres of water. Eventually we were finished by 4.30 much to my great relief. So here I am again in the internet shop. Sharing this with you.

We had tasty rice and beans for lunch today, cooked by a local woman who comes every day to cook. I am feeling hungry now so will go the bakery next door and buy some rolls for tea. I do hope the mini monkey will be around this evening. I plan to give the cat some love and affection outside on the verandah.

I contacted a dear lady called Hilary yesterday asking her to pray and her reply gave great comfort:

Sweetheart, of course you are in my prayers, but please dear one change your attitude to the situation, look on it as an adventure, and know that your lovely Martin is waiting to hear all your wonderful news and see your glorious pictures. Don’t worry about anything Big G s in charge, and this is ;art of your learning curve. I have been where you are now and terribly homesick, it does pass, it is just that you are outside of your comfort zone, be like Worzel Gummidge the scarecrow and change your head, then when you come home you change it back again, it is also a big culture shock to the system, but the attitude has to change to be able to cope. Know you are always in my prayers and my thoughts, imagine Martin there beside you holding one hand and Big G the other, you will be fine. Love and hugs and Blessings, and love to the Apes and the children from me too. Hilaryxxx

Some of the other girls have just arrived, inviting me out to dinner, which is very nice. But I am very tired and want to go back to the house and chill out and read and pet the pussy cat...

Please think of me and pray for me too:)

Lots of love Jane xxxxx

Friday, 5 December 2008


Well I am just about packed and ready to go. I have my puppets, camera, four lenses, video camera, etc etc. I am feeling nervous though and feel sad about leaving my three cats, Kitty, Lilly and Binky. But it's good to know that Martin will be looking after them.

I have my visa, at last, which is great. I have also now had all my jabs and taken my cholera medicine! I have also packed some fairy lights and balloons for the Christmas celebrations. Not taking any turkey or Christmas cake though...

It will be good to be warm, as it's been so cold here at the moment. I've been wearing a hat and socks in bed, as well as having an electric blanket and a hot water bottle!