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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Ape Action Africa

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Wishing you a very happy Christmas



And very best wishes for 2012

from all of us at Ape Action Africa


2011 has been one of our most challenging years and we are proud to have been able to keep our doors open to even more orphaned monkeys, chimps and gorillas. In addition we've built new housing for our animals and their caregivers, improved our facilities to welcome visitors and kept our vet team stocked with essential supplies for the health and wellbeing of our beloved residents. We couldn't have done any of this without your help and support.


Thank you to our dedicated team of caregivers who work day and night to give our orphans the best possible life. Thanks to our growing number of volunteers, many of whom return year after year to support our team. Thank you to our generous donors who have given so freely to help continue our work. Thanks to our friends who have offered words of strength and support though difficult times.


We hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year with your loved ones and look forward to seeing you in 2012!










Avi Sivan House opens its doors

Sunday, December 11, 2011


An impressive new building opened its doors at Mefou Primate Park this week - new living quarters for our workers. The structure has been built on the site of our old gorilla nursery and features five bedrooms and bathrooms and a shared TV and games room.

It is built in Quonset Hut style - a popular type of prefab housing used around the world.


The building went up quickly and easily from a kit of parts set on a solid concrete foundation. Doors and windows were simply cut out of the metal with an electric buzz saw, and frames fitted. The building is much larger and stronger than the previous wooden structure and will better protect our team from the scourges of the forest - mosquitoes and army ants!


Our Director Rachel Hogan opened the building in an official ceremony this week, with celebratory drinks and and a speech of thanks to our team of workers. She encouraged everyone to keep working in the positive spirit of our late Director Avi Sivan, after whom the house has been named. A memorial statue in the form of a carved lion has been relocated from its original place in the park, to stand guard outside the new building.

It is a reminder of the generosity of Avi & Talila Sivan who donated the materials before Avi passed away. Our team are now in the process of moving in and enjoying their new home. 

















Take the challenge with us this Monday

Sunday, December 4, 2011


With just a few hours to go, it’s our final countdown to the Big Give Christmas challenge, starting Monday at 10:00am.


The Christmas Challenge is a fantastic initiative created by The Big Give, which rewards our supporters for their generosity by doubling all donations made to us online.


With so many new orphans in our care, our dearest wish for the Christmas Challenge is to raise £5,500 – enough to feed our littlest babies for one year. If you would like to take action and double your impact, just follow these easy steps:


1. Set your alarm for 10:00am GMT (UK time), Monday 5th December
2. At 10:00am, go to
3. Click “Donate online now”
4. Enter your donation amount (+ Gift Aid if you are a UK taxpayer)
5. Pay using your credit or debit card
6. Watch your donation double!


The fund for doubling donations is staggered over 5 days, so if you miss out on having your donation doubled on Monday, you’ll have another chance at 10:00 on Tuesday, and each day after that.


Thanks for your support and best wishes to you and your family for a wonderful Christmas.


The team at Ape Action Africa







A long journey to a new home

Friday, December 2, 2011


October was a huge month for Ape Action Africa. Whilst taking care of two confiscated gorillas in Cameroon, we were also managing the final stages of a chimp rescue in the neighboring country of Equatorial Guinea.


The hunting, sale, consumption and possession of primate species has been illegal in Equatorial Guinea since 2007, but until now the law has never been enforced. It is not unusual to find orphaned primates being kept for amusement purposes in restaurants and bars.


In September this year, the EG government heard reports of a hunter selling two infant gorillas and decided to initiate their first confiscation of a live primate. Unfortunately the hunter evaded them by selling the babies on to a restaurateur in the city of Bata. Not long before, the same restaurant owner had also purchased a tiny infant chimpanzee as a present for his daughter. The chimp was seen by customers wearing clothes with perfume, painted nails and a dummy.


The Ministry of Fisheries and Wildlife refocussed their attention on the restaurant owner, issuing a demand for the return of the animals, but the slow formality of the process compromised the result. When the confiscation finally took place on 4th October, a single, older chimp was carried into the ministry by a small child accompanied by the restaurant owner’s brother. Due to fear of repercussions, those involved in the confiscation did not pursue the matter further. No one knows what happened to the two gorillas and the first chimp who had been seen in baby clothes.


No facilities exist in EG to care for confiscated animals and this poses a serious challenge to the enforcement of wildlife laws. In this instance a conservation group working in EG agreed to assist the government by contacting us to find sanctuary for the chimp. When our Director Rachel Hogan received a call describing the little female as weak, withdrawn and suffering respiratory problems she knew she had limited time to save her and immediately began the process of obtaining a permit to bring her to Cameroon.


In EG, the biggest challenge was finding someone to care for the baby until the permits arrived. Just at the right moment, Juliet Wright, a conservation worker and ex-volunteer of Ape Action Africa arrived back into EG from a short break and offered to care for the infant. Juliet named the baby Mbia after a river in EG and began communicating via email with our Manager and Head Vet, Babs, to provide life saving medication for the baby. Sick and terrified, Mbia refused all human contact at first, huddling face down and as far away as possible. She bore scars on her waist from being tied with a rope and recognised only two food types - bread and canned drinks.


As Mbia began to recover and realised that Juliet was her protector, her personality started to shine through. She happily took over Juliet’s bedroom as her jungle gym, started eating fruits and vegetables and developed a fascination with the cat whose tail she loved to grab.


With presidential elections going in on Cameroon, the permits to move Mbia were terribly slow to arrive. Rachel virtually camped out at the ministry to ensure the paperwork was signed and finally, a month after her confiscation, permission was granted to bring Mbia to sanctuary. An epic 14 hour journey was undertaken to transport Juliet and Mbia overland across the border. A team from Hess, as US oil company operating in EG and sympathetic to the plight of chimpanzees organised the transport and negotiated over 20 police checks to reach Mefou Park safely.


Since then, Mbia has been transferred to a new carer and is settling in well. The toy monkey she adopted when first rescued, accompanies her everywhere and her confidence is growing. She is starting to practice chimp skills like nest building and is running rings around the sanctuary cats! As soon she has completed her quarantine period, Mbia will be able to join Mac and Ayisha and spend her days playing with them in the forest. Special thanks go to all those who worked so hard over the past two months to give Mbia this chance for a new life.


For more photos of Mbia, visit our photo gallery





Take action, take the challenge

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Just a week and a half to go until The Big Give Christmas Challenge - a fantastic chance to take action and feed our smallest babies for one whole year!


For 5 days, starting 5th December, The Big Give will double any donations made online to Ape Action Africa. That means your donation of £50 will actually be worth £100. If you are a UK taxpayer, your donation will also attract Gift Aid, upping the total to £110!


Donations can be made online from within the UK or abroad with an accepted debit or credit card - Mastercard, Visa, Maestro, Switch, Solo, Delta or American Express.


All donations made during the Christmas Challenge will be used to purchase milk for our five hungry young orphans; Mac, Ayisha, Luci, Chickaboo and now Mbia. With your help we can set them up for a happy, healthy adulthood.










Avi Sivan - celebrating his life

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Today is one of sadness and one of joy for everyone at Ape Action Africa; sadness because it is one year ago since our Director, Avi Sivan, was tragically killed in a helicopter crash in Cameroon and joy because we are celebrating his life.


Avi touched many people in his life and he was a great inspiration to all of us at Ape Action Africa. Rachel Hogan said, “He was the biggest inspiration in my life and he taught all us many things. His attitude was that there was never such a word as a problem and he never gave up, there was always a way. This attitude has helped hugely to get the project through the last year without him”.


Avi was a very charismatic man, his energy filled the room and the generosity and support of Avi and his wife Talila will never be forgotten by all of us in Cameroon. Avi and Talila brought an unrivalled passion to primate conservation in Cameroon and their impact will endure for many years to come at Mefou Primate Park.


We are celebrating Avi’s life in Cameroon today with a football match which we expect to be very competitive because the winning team will be awarded the Colonel Avi Sivan trophy!


We miss them both enormously; our hearts and thoughts are with Talila and their daughters Achinoam and Avishag at this difficult time.



A safe arrival for Mbia

Monday, November 21, 2011


Good news! Mbia - the little chimpanzee we have been working for weeks to rescue - has arrived at our sanctuary.


The rescue team travelled for 14 hours to bring her from neighbouring Equatorial Guinea where she was confiscated, to safety in Cameroon. We are now busy helping her to settle in, but will bring more news soon...







How to take action and double your impact

Sunday, November 13, 2011



Ape Action Africa is excited to be part of this year’s Big Give Christmas Challenge, where donations made to us online through the Big Give will be doubled!


The Christmas Challenge is a fantastic initiative created by The Big Give and supported by a range of sponsors. It is a unique opportunity for our supporters to be rewarded for their generosity by having their donations doubled, allowing us to make twice the impact through our work.


The Challenge starts at 10am (GMT) on 5th December and runs for just 5 days. To make sure your donations are doubled and help us make the most of this fantastic opportunity, save the 5th December in your diaries. Don’t worry if you forget though - we’ll be counting down to donation day on our website and Facebook.


The Big Give is UK based, so donations made during the Christmas Challenge are in pounds sterling. Donations can be made online from any country as long as you use one of the accepted debit or credit cards - Mastercard, Visa, Maestro, Switch, Solo, Delta and American Express.


The donations you make as part of the Christmas Challenge will go directly towards the support of our sanctuary’s youngest orphans, including our newest arrivals - gorillas Luci and Chickaboo. It costs £20 a week to feed one baby gorilla – if you can help us to reach our Big Give challenge target, we’ll be able to feed our five babies for a whole year!





A double gorilla surprise

Sunday, October 30, 2011


It’s all hands on deck at Mefou Primate Park this month, with the surprise arrival of not one, but two baby gorillas. It is rare for baby gorillas to arrive at our sanctuary – not because they aren’t being hunted, but because so many die of stress before we can reach them. We were very relieved therefore to be involved in the rescue of two gorilla infants last week who have not only survived, but are doing well.


Little Luci, a 10 month old gorilla, was being held in a village inside a logging concession after her family were killed by hunters. The men running the concession learned of Luci’s fate and rescued her, taking her back to their headquarters to be cared for. After hearing of our work, the Concession Manager called us to report the confiscation and we immediately organised a mission to collect the infant, headed up by our Manager Tafon Babila (Babs). The difficult journey took three days through dense forest and rough terrain and was almost compromised when our vehicle suffered a serious breakdown. Thanks to the skill of our mechanic Kenneth, the team got back on the road and arrived safely.


Like most gorillas who have lost their mothers, Luci was depressed and frightened, but the care given by the workers at the logging concession went a long way towards saving her life. By the time our team arrived she was taking milk from a bottle and allowed Babs to hold her. She even showed the first signs of boldness - tentatively exploring the front seat of the car before settling into Babs’ arms for the long journey to her new home. During her first few days with us, Luci went from sad orphan to small hooligan, showing an enthusiasm for life rarely seen in such a young rescue. We have already been able to transfer her to our forest sanctuary where she will spend the remainder of her quarantine period with Jeanne – an experienced carer who helped raise two of our other gorilla babies.

Within two days of Luci’s arrival, we received a call about a second gorilla - this time from Ofir Dori at the Last Great Ape organisation (LAGA), a Cameroonian wildlife law enforcement group. With some swift re-organisation, our Director Rachel Hogan stepped in to care for the two-year old infant, supported by our long-time gorilla keeper Apollinaire. She named the baby ‘Chickaboo’ after a toy monkey that was popular in the UK during the 1970s. Chickaboo was gifted to Rachel as a child and so began her life-long love for and commitment to primates.

The Chickaboo doll inspires fond memories for large numbers of British people and our Chickaboo has already won the hearts of our team. Although she is a healthy weight at 18kg, she arrived in a shocked and withdrawn state, unable to eat or drink. With round the clock care, Rachel finally persuaded her to begin feeding but she is suffering from a nasty injury, inflicted by a hunter's forest snare. Before she arrived we hoped that she and Luci could be companions, but Chickaboo will have a longer road to recovery. The snare has caused a deep, painful wound on her wrist and our vet team suspect she has severed tendons and possibly broken bones as she can’t move her hand or her fingers. She will need surgery and a skin graft to help heal her wound.

Although she has trouble walking because of her injury, Chickaboo is gaining confidence and will soon be able to transfer to her new carer Marius at our forest sanctuary and in time, she will be with Luci. In the meantime, we are seeking sponsorship for specialist wildlife vet Sharon Redrobe to travel to Cameroon from the UK to perform the much needed surgery. If you would like to take action by donating funds for Chickaboo’s treatment, please visit our online donation page.


For more photos of Luci and Chickaboo, visit our photo gallery.


Thanks for your support!





Ape Action Keeper wins Disney conservation award

Monday, October 17, 2011


We are very proud to announce that our Keeper Zanga Germaine has been recognised as a Disney Conservation Hero for 2011. Zanga was nominated for the award by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA). it recognises his commitment to the conservation of great apes through his tireless work at Ape Action Africa’s Mefou Primate Park in Cameroon.


Zanga has worked for Ape Action Africa since 2006 when he joined the team as a construction worker. Our Director, Rachel Hogan, observed Zanga’s strong work ethic and offered him a three month trial as a chimpanzee keeper. He began working with a group of thirteen young chimps under the supervision of our Head Keeper, but it wasn’t long before Zanga proved his natural talent for conservation and animal care.


Now a fully fledged Keeper, Zanga is a vital member of our team and contributes directly to the success of the sanctuary with his quiet and absolute commitment. He walks almost 15km a day to work in the park where he cleans, feeds and watches over 20 chimps. With no running water or power at the sanctuary, his job is challenging but Zanga is uncomplaining. “It is sometimes tiring, but I enjoy all aspects of working with the chimps” he says. “I like watching them playing and laughing just like people. I treat them like my brothers”.


Zanga will receive a plaque and cash prize from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund in a ceremony in Cameroon. Congratulations Zanga and thanks to PASA for their support!



Update on Ayisha

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


After sharing the story of baby Ayisha earlier this week, we have some new pictures showing her happily reunited with her friend Mac! After a long battle with pneumonia and meningitis, Ayisha continues to do well, although we had cause for concern recently when she contracted a bacterial illness. Thankfully it was minor and after a couple of days of lost appetite, Ayisha is healthy again.


The best news for Ayisha is that she has been bonding with her fantastic new carer - Jeanne. Jeanne worked with us 9 years ago, helping to raise gorillas Jasmine, Geri & Avishag when they were still youngsters living in the Mvog Betsi Zoo. She left to raise a family of her own but remained passionate about the sanctuary and now that her children are at school, has returned to us to care full time for Ayisha. The two have bonded well and Jeanne will care for Ayisha for another year or so until she is old enough to join other young chimps and form a permanent social group.


Visit our photo gallery to see more recent images of Ayisha.   




Ayisha's fight for life

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


This is a story that came close to having a tragic ending. We have delayed bringing it to you because as events unfolded, we couldn’t be sure how it would end. After many anxious weeks and sleepless nights, we are very happy to be able to call this a story of survival.


Several months ago, we received a tiny chimp who was confiscated from a woman trying to sell her as a pet. Just a few months old, weighing 2.5kg and still suckling, the baby girl had only recently been removed from her mother but had been amongst humans long enough to contract pneumonia – an illness that is often fatal in small babies.


By the time Ayisha arrived in our care, her health was in serious decline. Our vet team made a swift diagnosis and began immediate treatment with antibiotics, but her condition was poor. We watched helplessly as she was gripped by long coughing fits that left her glassy-eyed and exhausted. Her symptoms were worse at night and Ayisha slept upright on her caregiver’s chest night after night to ease her breathing. We waited anxiously for the medication to work, but Ayisha was so small and vulnerable that it took several weeks before we could breathe a sigh of relief when we knew she was over the worst.


As her health improved, Ayisha started to show positive signs of development. Her baby teeth started to come through, her hand-eye coordination improved and her legs became stronger. Although still a bit unsteady on her feet, the arrival of a second orphaned chimpanzee, Mac, gave her a reason to begin exploring the world beyond her caregiver. Mac soon became a welcome playmate and Ayisha had just begun to enjoy this new friend in her life when a second illness threatened her life.


Meningitis is rife in Cameroon amongst human and non-human primates and is difficult to diagnose. Its impact is swift and devastating for the young and for Ayisha it meant a sudden collapse, followed by soaring temperatures that couldn’t be controlled by medication. Although our team is experienced in treating meningitis, each case affects its victim a little differently. Within days, Ayisha was immobile and blind. We worried that she wouldn’t have the strength to fight another severe, life threatening illness. After two very stressful weeks of round the clock care, Ayisha began to show a determination to survive. Her temperature subsided and she began to recognise shapes and faces. Gradually, she began to move and was able to roll over slowly in her bed.


Now, several weeks later, we are delighted that Ayisha has recovered and is enjoying life as a chimp again. Her eyesight is much improved and she has regained her movement following treatment with exercises that Kirsty Godwin-Pearson, a neuro-physiotherapist, taught our vet team on a recent visit to Cameroon. It's wonderful to see Ayisha reunited with her friend Mac - they were so excited to see each other again and are now spending their days playing in the forest. 


Special thanks go to our Cameroon team and two volunteers who were so important to her recovery - Monica Welch and Jenny Brown. Monica watched over Ayisha with great dedication throughout her most difficult days and Jenny, an early caregiver for Ayisha, dropped everything at home in Australia to return to Cameroon to assist with her care after learning of her illness.


If you would like to take action and help support Ayisha by donating funds for her care, please visit our donation page - it costs £3 a day for her milk so every penny counts. 


Thank you for your support! 




Back to the forest

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Our Agile Mangabeys have a new home! After many years living in old, worn accommodation at Mvog Betsi Zoo, a group of 10 Agiles have been transferred to a brand new enclosure at Mefou Sanctuary. Carved out of a large tract of forest, the new enclosure offers the monkeys a chance to live in their natural environment after years spent in a man-made space.


Found mainly in the East of Cameroon, Agile Mangabeys live in areas of swamp forest and are increasingly becoming victims of the bushmeat trade. Our Agile residents are all orphans or abandoned pets that were surrendered to the zoo and introduced to each other to form a new social group.


Agiles love to spend time on the ground as well as in the trees and in their new enclosure they can explore the dense undergrowth and dig for insects to supplement their fruit-based diet. The younger monkeys have been having lots of fun chasing each other in and out of clearings and we recently discovered further evidence that the group is thriving – the birth of a baby. The little Agile has been named Mvog-Betsi in recognition of its parent’s old home. Mother and baby are doing well.


Visit our photo gallery to see more images of the Agiles' return to the forest.




Meet Mac, our newest resident

Friday, August 19, 2011


Mefou Park has welcomed another new resident – a one year old chimpanzee named Mac.  The little chimp was discovered by the Cameroonian authorities when they raided a hunters' camp and found him alive and probably bound for the pet trade.  Mac’s mother had been killed and butchered for her meat, which was being smoked to sell in the markets when Mac was found.

The full details of his journey out of the camp and into safety is unclear, but we do know that he was transported over a 3 day period on the back of a truck, packed inside a crate of ripe bananas. When he finally arrived into our care he still smelled of smoke from the hunters' campfire and was covered in sticky banana residue, but the fruit had probably helped him survive the journey.  Mac’s condition couldn’t be assessed until our vet team started cleaning his matted hair and as they worked, they uncovered some terrible injuries.  He had bullet wounds in his elbow, mouth, hand, foot and chest and a pellet still lodged behind his ear.


At the moment, Mac is too weak to undergo surgery, so his wounds are being treated with antibiotics and painkillers.  When he is stronger, we will need to remove the pellets to prevent long-term infection.  After drinking an astounding 3 litres of water on arrival, the little chimp has been adapting to a diet of juicy fruits like mango.  He is sweet natured, but very sad and seems to be remembering the loss of his family.  During his first days he was very sensitive to the noises of the forest, running anxiously from his human caregiver towards the calls of the other chimps whom he could hear nearby.


He has improved significantly following his recent introduction to Ayisha – a female chimp of similar age.  We hope that their bond will enable both to adapt to their new situation and compensate in some way for the chimpanzee families they have lost.





Wow Gorillas - in Cameroon

Tuesday, April 19, 2011



Children at the tiny village school in Metet, Cameroon got the surprise of their lives recently when a gorilla arrived in their classroom!


The visitor - a gorilla sculpture - was given to the children to decorate and keep by Bristol Zoo Gardens as part of its ‘Wow! Gorillas’ public art event. The zoo, a key supporter of Ape Action Africa, has launched the program as part of the celebrations in its 175th birthday this year.


Metet school is close to the Mefou Primate Sanctuary and was built by Ape Action Africa 3 years ago to improve education for the local children. Normal classes were suspended infavour of art when our Education Officer Elvis Chefor brought the statue into the classroom and asked each of the 63 students to put forwardtheir ideas for decorating the gorilla.


Art is not normally taught at the school, so the prospect of using paper and pencils to express their ideas created huge excitement amongst the children. The finished artwork was displayed around the classroom and the children voted to chose their favourite.


Whilst little Eteme Atangana won the vote, he had plenty of help to bring his design to life. Each child was given the chance to paint a part of the gorilla, with support from their teacher, our education officers, Dave Naish from Bristol Zoo and an Ape Action Africa volunteer who was on hand to help mix the colours.


The gorilla decorating programme was aimed at celebrating the importance of gorillas with the local children says Elvis. “We had some very impressive artwork and the children left for home with smiles on their faces”.


‘Gando’, as the children have named him, will be put on display in the sanctuary for the next year where thousands of visitors will be able to admire him. After that he will visit each of the other village schools every year, so all the children in the area around the sanctuary will
have a chance to decide how he is decorated.


Visit our gallery for more photos


Many thanks to Bristol Zoo for helping to make this a fun event for the children in Cameroon!






UK specialist brings hope for recovering primates

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Two of our primates recovering from severe illnesses received a very special visitor recently - British Neurophysiotherapist Kirsty Godwin-Pearson.

At home, Kirsty works with people with stroke, multiple sclerosis, head injuries and other neurological conditions, using physiotherapy to aid their recovery and help them regain function. She travelled to Cameroon to work closely with Samburu, a young chimpanzee recovering from meningitis and Maggie, a mandrill who suffers severe fits.

In her two weeks at Mefou, Kirsty took Samburu from his group twice a day for physiotherapy sessions and trained his carer Franklin on techniques that help Samburu use his paralysed arm. The little chimp thoroughly enjoyed the attention, worked really well with the exercises and has made excellent progress. He is now using his right arm and hand to feed himself and even to climb.

Kirsty also worked with Maggie, a gentle, two-year-old female Mandrill, who suffers from serious fits, poor balance and sensory problems. Maggie’s frequent fitting made it difficult for Kirsty to treat her, but she spent several hours a day in Maggie’s cage, gaining her trust through grooming. She encouraged her to use her hands to eat (rather than lying on her stomach), by passing her pieces of her favourite food – hardboiled egg.

Due to the severity of Maggie’s disability, she cannot be integrated into the Mandrill group, so she gets very lonely. To counteract her depression, Maggie’s carer Nixon sets aside time each day to sit with Maggie, groom her and feed her pieces of egg. Our vet team are also looking into medicines that can keep Maggie’s fitting under control.

While in Cameroon, Kirsty also travelled to the Sanaga Yong Rescue Centre run by IDA Africa, an organisation with whom we frequently share resources. There she worked with Arvid, a young chimp who had suffered from meningitis and become almost completely paralysed from the neck down. For the last year, Kirsty has been treating Arvid remotely and was finally able to meet him and train his carers in an ongoing, daily physio regime. By the end of the week, Arvid was able to sit by himself for the first time since his illness.

Kirsty is passionate about primate conservation, saying “for a while now I have felt that primates with neurological problems would benefit from neurophysiotherapy in the same way humans do. Physiologically they are very similar to us. They’re emotionally similar too - just as with humans, they get very frustrated from not being able to move around and use their limbs normally. Before going out to Cameroon I couldn’t be certain how effective therapy with these individuals would be but they have all shown such fantastic progress that I’m really keen to continue working with chimpanzees and other primates as much as possible. It was an absolute privilege to be able to work so closely with such incredible animals and I’m already planning my next trip to Cameroon.”

As far as we know Kirsty is the first specialist Neurophysiotherapist in the world to have worked with primates and we thank her for the huge improvements she has made in the lives of Samburu and Maggie. With meningitis and other illnesses so prevalent in Africa, we look forward to seeing more of her positive work in this field.



Photographs courtesy of Graham and Kirsty Godwin-Pearson - see more photos in our gallery

Helping Endangered Primates in Cameroon