Rescue center for endangered drills in Nigeria

Monkey with black face and brown fur looks into camera, animal news
Sugar Ray, a 20-year-old drill monkey at the Drill Ranch, Nigeria, March 27, 2022, photo: Zack Schwenneker via Reuters

Sugar Ray is a drill of about 20 years old whose life started tragically: a hunter killed his mom and cut off his leg with a machete when he was just a baby. Mutilated and orphaned, he would probably have died, but he was rescued by the Drill Ranch, a rescue center for drills in south-eastern Nigeria.

Drills are short-tailed monkeys with pitch-black faces and light brown-grey fur. There are only a few thousand drills left in the wild.

The animals are at risk of extinction because farming and logging are destroying their living areas; farmers also kill drills to prevent them from eating their crops, and the animals are sometimes killed for their meat.

In 1991, the Drill Ranch started with five drills and now cares for over 600 at two sites, in the city of Calabar and in the remote Afi Mountain forest. All animals were either rescued or born within the ranch.

The drills live in forested enclosures, form social groups and breed successfully. Funded by donations, the ranch hosts free visits, boosting awareness of the animals.

But sometimes, people kill drills at the ranch and take them home to eat. “Sometimes they kill some of them [drills] and hide them in the forest and roast them, put in the bag and take it to their houses,” said Nsikan Eninekit, the assistant manager at the Drill Ranch.

Peter Adie is one of the forest rangers making sure that drills don’t get killed. Armed with a torch and machete, he walks around the forest every night, looking for traps set by hunters.

“I used to hunt them, but when I discovered the importance, I stopped hunting. I do this to preserve these animals,” Adie said.

The ranch has a long-term ambition to release drills to boost the numbers of the wild population, but this is hard to achieve in an ever-shrinking habitat where contact with humans can be lethal.

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