An American tourist who visited Nigeria many years ago has become the drill monkeys’ saviour, after he discovered the rare primates – drill monkeys – thought to have gone extinct for thirty years.
Peter Jenkin is an American conservationist who arrived in Nigeria as a tourist in 1988 and created the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary in Southern Nigeria, precisely Cross River State, a 38-square mile patch of dense rainforest that is one of the last refuges for one of the world’s rarest primates.
Due to human infliction, as high as 95% of rainforest in Nigeria have been destroyed leaving no reserves for the rare drills.
“There had been no studies of drills,”Jenkins said. “Nobody really knew where they were still existing.”
According to CNN, conservation groups estimate there are between three and eight thousand drills left in the wild, but the animals face an uphill battle.
From the survey work conducted by Jenkins, to find out other habitats of the drill monkeys, he claimed there still illegal tree logging, farming and poaching which are all direct threats impinging on the primate population.
Seeing the dangers the drill monkey faced, Jenkins and wife Liza Gadsby created an organisation known as Pandrillus, designed to protect the rare primates.
“We started here in the early ’90s,” says Jenkins. “We had 26 founders that were all wild born… now we have over 500 drills here.”
Jenkins shared a little of his experiences and studies with the drills within their 22-acre enclosed habitat which provides a safe space for the primates.
“The drills are probably the most interesting of primates because there’s always something going on. It’s a complex society,” Jenkins said. “It’s a non-stop soap opera of a drama, of comedy, at times it’s a thriller, there’s so much going on, the dynamics are so dynamite in a drill group.”
Challengers to the title of alpha male will often sharpen their teeth for up to two weeks before slugging it out, but the winner must also be accepted by females, who are also led by a dominant individual. It is the ladies who decide which male will best protect them.
Jenkins hopes to eventually release the drills into the wider Afi Mountain Sanctuary, but admits that wider change needs to take place in order to sustain the species.
“You see conflicts all around Nigeria,” he says. “It’s fights over land, it’s over resources: water, land, farming. And so it’s an acute problem now here… There’s heavy encroachment in other reserves and heavy encroachment within the national park.
“The (drill) population will come back if the protection becomes effective, but they won’t come back if there’s no habitat. If they’ve got no place to live it’s a no-hoper for these animals.”