LWC: Sending bushmeat orphans home
Limbe Wildlife Centre (LWC), a rescue and rehabilitation project situated in one of the world's greatest biodiversity hotspots, is home to over 360 orphans of the illegal bushmeat and pet trades. In Cameroon, as in all of Africa, forest animals are hunted for their meat, which is then sold for a profit. Infants, being worth more alive than dead, are caged and sold as pets in the market. After being ripped from the bodies of their mothers, these orphans face a horrendous fate: life in a village, chained to a concrete space so small that they cannot stand, never to see their forest homes again.
The vast majority of the orphans that arrive at the sanctuary suffer from severe physical and psychological trauma. Though they can be just months old, they arrive with broken bones and maggot infested gunshot wounds from their captures and subsequent restraints. The few that survive any length of time in captivity compound their physical ailments with the psychological trauma of a solitary and abusive life. Manifestations of the psychological trauma may include compulsive hair pulling, head banging, lack of social understanding, extreme fear and fits of terror.
Upon arrival at sanctuary, bushmeat orphans receive immediate medical attention and a much-needed nurturing environment. This is the start of their long road to recovery, which will ultimately take them to the back to the forest homes from which they were so cruelly torn.
After their initial recovery period, the socialization process begins. This process is different for each orphan, as some have spent more than a decade in solitude, while others have only recently been torn from their families and forest homes. Adults that have lived in solitude for a length of time have a greater adjustment period to living in a social situation with members of their own species; whereas infants require around the clock care from dedicated staff and volunteers who gradually integrate them into a nursery group. Interactions with group members of their own species allow individuals to learn social cues and behaviors integral to their preparation for a life in the wild.
We are currently in the process of locating field sites suitable for reintroduction. This is an intermediate step to facilitate the process of full release into the wild. During reintroduction, staff will monitor individual well-being and behavior, gradually allowing animals to fully acclimate to the conditions of forest life. Though the animal groups will still have barriers, these large tracks of land in native habitat are an integral step in learning all of the necessary skills for survival.
It is in this that we need your help. Without your assistance, we cannot give these bushmeat orphans the life that they so rightfully deserve. Funding will allow us the resources that we need not only to plan and implement the release of these animals, but for the continuation of their care, and the care of the animals whom are too old or injured to survive on their own in the wild.