Does anyone else feel like time is suddenly supercharging its way through the days? It is already 2 weeks since I was meant to have flown back to Cameroon and when I reflect on it, I am not sure where those two weeks have gone?!

My body clock ticks on its forest schedule. I still wake up at 5 am. In the forest, as soon as I awake I go outside and sit on my chair and listen. It’s the only time I’m there when everyone else, animals and staff, are all still fast asleep. My dogs are still snoring away, laying around my chair and can’t be bothered to wake up and say hi to me as its far too early for that!! And as I’m drinking my coffee, I suddenly hear one of the gorillas beat their chest, a big, deep drum sound. Bobo’s group is awake. Then from the other side of the park, a red-capped mangabey calls out and for the 1000th time I am amazed at how sound travels in the forest. As the silence takes over once again, suddenly one of the chimps in Wazak’s group or Max’s group wakes and decides if they are awake, then the rest of the group needs to wake up, and then the chimp chorus begins, letting everyone in the forest know whether you want to or not, it's time to get up!

Rosaline, a red-capped mangabey. Image © Ape Action Africa / Jo Gaweda

Here in the UK, my schedule is different in so many ways, but my morning ritual of grabbing my coffee at 5 am and going to sit out in the garden to listen is the same. There are no gorilla chest-beats or monkey calls and chimp hoots, but there are so many different birds singing around me, each individual with a different tune. I can hear the sheep and at around 6.30 am there is a donkey somewhere that lets everyone know he is awake and hungry! And then as quick as a flash its nearly 7.30 am and I need to get to work.

Today’s agenda begins with a call to Alex, our Site Manager. He left Cameroon for Spain over a month ago to go on his holidays and has also been unable to return to the forest. We run through a list of administrative tasks that we never have time to do when we are in the forest; we are using the opportunity to do them now. We share updates on what’s happening in Spain and the UK, making comparisons and picking out the positives, both of us giving dates when we think we will return to Cameroon. Although the signs don’t look good at the moment, I like to think we will both be back within a week or two - positive thinking is a must!

Our Site Manager, Alex Benitez. Image © Ape Action Africa

Later in the afternoon, we receive news from the forest that one of our young baboons, named Elizabelle, is dragging her back leg and they suspect she has a fracture. Tamara and Appolinaire patiently stay around the enclosure with Eliza’s caregivers, trying to entice her into the satellite cage so Dr. Julieta and our vet team can get a closer look. I continue with my work, patiently waiting to hear if they have succeeded, and try not to check my phone every 5 minutes, an annoying habit I seem to have developed. Ping. A message arrives - Elizabelle has entered the satellite cage and is now in the vet clinic. I exhale and smile.

Excellent work, team!

I continue with my admin list.

The early evenings are when I know Tamara, our Operations Coordinator, will message me and Alex with a full update of the day. In this evening’s message, Tamara explains that Elizabelle’s leg is definitely fractured and that Dr. Julieta needs her to have an x-ray. We discuss the options of whether we can get Elizabelle into the city for this as we have no functioning x-ray machine on site. Tamara will make some phone calls tomorrow morning and see what she can arrange. For now, Elizabelle is in the clinic, comfortable and on pain relief. Dr. Julieta informs me it doesn’t seem to have affected her appetite as she is currently stuffing her face with food! Baboons' pain threshold always amazes me.

Elizabelle in 2019. Image © Ape Action Africa / Alex Benitez

And then as quickly as it started, the day is coming to an end. We say our goodnights and thanks to the team in the forest. I write my to-do list for the following day, a ritual I’ve been doing for the last 20 years - if it's not on the list, it doesn’t get done!

Today has nearly ended and the world is one day closer to controlling the pandemic, and it's one day closer to me getting home to the forest.

Stay safe, stay inside, save lives.

Find out later this week how Elizabelle gets on.

Banner image - Max patrols his territory. Image © Ape Action Africa / Jo Gaweda

If you missed Rachel's last post, you can catch up here.