Our story began in 1996 when Christopher Mitchell founded Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund (as we were formerly known). CWAF's primary objective was to improve living conditions for primates housed at Mvog Betsi Zoo in Yaoundé. During 12 years of operation, CWAF expanded its mission significantly to provide sanctuary for wild orphans of the illegal bushmeat and pet trades in Cameroon, and in 2009 we took the decision to rename our charity Ape Action Africa. Many changes have taken place in our 25-year history and we are now one of the largest wildlife rescue operations in Africa. A great number of people have played a part in our work, but two men have been with us since the very beginning, Mr Joseph Tume Myelah and his brother Mr Frederik Tume Lehdufe. 

Both Big Joe and Fred, as they are known around the forest, were honoured on Labour Day earlier this year, when they received Medals of Honour from the Ministry of Work and Social Security as recognition for their long service. We cannot express how grateful we are to have such committed individuals in our team, caring for our rescued primates and inspiring newer staff members with their dedication, passion and hard work.

Big Joe (centre) and Fred (right) with their Medals of Honour

Big Joe spent a number of years working in the zoo, but when we were given our forest site in 2000, he moved to the park and was involved in everything from constructing enclosures to settling new arrivals into their sanctuary home. He has seen a lot of changes over the years and remembers when the road to the park was just a small path covered by the forest, when there was no generator to supply electricity and when there were no water pumps. Big Joe has many stories to tell and is a favourite amongst volunteers who have worked with him.

During his time with us Big Joe has cared for many African primates. But in 2002 he also got the chance to work with orangutans and gibbons when he spent 3 months in Jersey at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust learning about wildlife care and conservation, an experience he remembers very fondly. 

Now Head of Section, in charge of the care of 4 gorillas, 28 chimpanzees and 5 monkeys, Big Joe retains his passion for primates. And when asked why he has stayed at Ape Action Africa for the last 25 years, Big Joe says 'It's a vocation. Everyone has his or her own calling. I think God has called me to serve these creatures. I'm ready for that!'

We are incredibly lucky and exceedingly grateful to have wonderful individuals like Big Joe and Fred in our team. A sincere thank you to all our fantastic staff for their commitment, compassion and care. 

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