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Quarters for Conservation: Drill Ranch

Two in a three-part blog series on the 2018/2019 Quarters for Conservation programs at Zoo Atlanta

Drill monkeys, a close relative to the more commonly recognized mandrills, are the largest monkey species in the world. Native to Africa, they are highly elusive and are currently only found in small segmented areas across Nigeria, Cameroon and Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. It is estimated that as few as 3,000 individuals are left in the wild, and they occupy a total combined global area of around 35,000 square kilometers – an area smaller than Switzerland! Drills are facing threats from all sides and are in dire need of conservation action. Their natural habitat is rapidly consumed through logging and slash-and- burn agriculture, both of which contribute to general deforestation and decimate the forests they call home. By clearing areas of land that were previously forested, drills are also more exposed to humans, which in turn leads to an increase in hunting for the bushmeat trade. With their populations dwindling and their homes destroyed, swift widespread conservation action is vital to preventing the extinction of these remarkable primates.

The Pandrillus Foundation was established with this exact purpose in mind. Founders Liza Gadsby and Peter Jenkins began studying wild populations of drills in the late 1980s, in the hopes of becoming more familiar with their species. Seeing the extent of the threats they face, Gadsby and Jenkins went on to institute the Pandrillus Foundation, with the hope of spreading awareness of the plight of wild drills. Subsequently, they have also been able to utilize this foundation to show how efforts on a local, regional and global scale can contribute to their conservation. As a subset of the Pandrillus Foundation, the Drill Rehabilitation and Breeding Center, more commonly known as Drill Ranch, uses its resources to contribute to rescue, rehabilitation, selective breeding, habitat preservation and controlled release of drill monkeys in an area known as the Cross-Sanaga region. Spanning the international border of Nigeria and Cameroon, the Cross-Sanaga region exists between the Cross River in Nigeria and the Sanaga River in central Cameroon, and is an area rich in biodiversity. Drill Ranch operates across two sites, Calabar and Afi Mountain, and currently manages over 550 drills with plans to release select groups into protected areas of the Cross-Sanaga region in the future. The breeding successes at Drill Ranch are a key component of the current conservation programs in place for these shy, but social monkeys.

Zoo Atlanta has a strong and well-established relationship with Drill Ranch and was the first institution Gadsby and Jenkins contacted when in the early planning stages of the organization’s establishment. With the selection of Drill Ranch as one of our three Quarters for Conservation initiatives, we are able to continue supporting this organization and the excellent conservation work they do, while inviting our guests to learn more about how they can help wild drills! As the champion for drills and our partners at Drill Ranch, I am thrilled to have you join me in helping support their efforts! Throughout the year, I will be providing information on the organization, including updates from the field, as well as current related news across both Drill Ranch sites. Additionally, I will elaborate on how your vote for Drill Ranch will positively affect wild drill conservation and provide insight into how the donated funds will be used. Keep an eye out for updates from me, and thank you once again for your vote! Together, we can truly make a difference for these special primates and ensure they are around for generations to come!

If you’d like to learn more in the meantime, I suggest checking out the Pandrillus website, where you will find more information on Drill Ranch, in addition to some of the other wildlife initiatives the Pandrillus Foundation supports. 

Jenny Ghents
Keeper II, Primates and Zoo Atlanta Quarters for Conservation Champion for the Drill Ranch

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