Nursing mum ‘missing gorillas’

Posted on 11 October 2017

As she nurses her five-month-old baby girl, Anougue France still thinks of the gorillas she had left behind in Campo Ma’an National Park, in the South Region of Cameroon. That was 13 months ago when she reluctantly left a team of 15 people with whom she had pitched tents deep inside the forest to carry out studies for the habituation of gorillas, to be delivered of her first child.
As she nurses her five-month-old baby girl, Anougue France still thinks of the gorillas she had left behind in Campo Ma’an National Park, in the South Region of Cameroon. That was 13 months ago when she reluctantly left a team of 15 people with whom she had pitched tents deep inside the forest to carry out studies for the habituation of gorillas, to be delivered of her first child.

“I miss the company of the gorillas whom I have been so used to,” she says, caressing her baby called Eyabbe Raphaëlla Archange. “I miss the vocalizations and chest beating of the gorillas and their curiosity,” she adds. “If not of the diseases found in the forest, which may affect the health of my baby, I would have loved, without any hesitation, to go and stay in the forest with my child to continue my work,” Anougue says.

Now she lives in the town of Dschang in the West Region of Cameroon, surrounded by the hilly grass field characteristic of the vegetation of this part of the country. Here temperatures are sometimes very low. Extreme cold wind blows through the town carrying with it a languid chime, totally different from the eerie nights Anougue used to spend in a small tent inside the rainforests of Campo Ma’an National Park.

She is elated all the same seeing her child, whose pregnancy she carried in the forest for six months, grow. “I feel very happy; it is exceptional to be a mother. Indeed I feel different now,” Anougue says. But being a nursing mum can be very challenging too. “The first challenge is apprenticeship. One has to learn how to bathe, feed and lull the baby to sleep,” she explains. “I hardly sleep sometimes at night because the baby is either crying or sick.”

Exuding diligence, Anougue spends time on the internet doing research on gorilla conservation, spurred on by sporadic calls from her colleagues in Campo Ma’an National Park, always wishing her well.  She prays the gorilla habituation team, which has been working day and night in Dipikar Island inside the park, keeps up the good work. She says little Eyabbe Raphaëlla and herself are predisposed to joining the team later if given the chance.
Anougue has some kind words for the gorillas too: “I wish them good health and hope they accept human presence which will generate funding for their protection against poachers.”

The process for the habituation of gorillas began in Campo Ma’an National Park since 2011. The project has made remarkable successes with the process of habituation of a group of 32 gorillas called the “Akiba group”. Today the contact distance between the gorillas and human presence has been reduced from several km to less than 10 metres.  Success of the project is likely to boost eco-tourism that will generate sorely needed revenue for local communities and the government and scale up protection of wildlife and forest.
Anougue France nursing her baby but still missing the Gorillas
© Xavier Fonju Kamga
Anougue France receives encouragement from WWF Africa Director
© Rose Thuo/WWF-Africa