Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Face to Face

Tracking monkeys
Tracking our released monkeys
One of my 'special' vervets

We talked to Cosmas Mumba, Project Manager of the Zambia Primate Project (ZPP). Read his interview below and also watch a 'live' interview here.

Q1: What is your background and how/why did you get involved with project?

Ans: My name is Cosmas Mumba, and I am 33 years old, born in Lusaka from a family who respect nature and love wildlife. My uncles and elder brothers all work for Zambia Wildlife Authority and so my interest in working in conservation begin from my early childhood. One day when I was 11 years old I visited my friend in the village during my school holiday. I was shocked when I saw my friend’s family - they were busy stoning a big vervet monkey with a catapult. That monkey had nowhere to run to, as he was in one tall Parinari curatellifolia tree known as “mpundu” in our local name. Under the tree were 4 dogs. I tried to stop them but they wouldn’t listen to me as I was a young boy. That monkey died a horrible death. I wasn’t happy at all and I went home feeling very upset. The image of that monkey dying, with blood covering his face, kept coming into my mind for a long time. I ended my friendship with that boy when he and his family would not agree to stop hunting and eating monkeys.

When I finished secondary school in 2000 I started working at Munda Wanga Wildlife Sanctuary as a casual worker when I discovered they had rescued primates there. I worked very hard and showed my interest in working on the primate section. After almost a year and a half I felt as if it was a dream come true when I was offered a permanent job there caring for the primates. After another year I was asked if I would like to help these primates be released back to the wild as part of a pioneering new welfare project (now known as Zambia Primate Project)  and I jumped at the chance!  

Since that time I have been based deep in the bush and have helped release over 500 rescued vervet monkeys and yellow baboons back to the wild. I LOVE my job and every day I feel such great happiness seeing primates we have rescued from terrible conditions get a second chance of freedom. . I am now ZPP’s Project Manager, the first Zambian to hold this crutical position.

Q: Can you give us a short outline of the primate release projects work activities in Zambia?

Ans: Here in Zambia there is a serious illegal bushmeat (meat from wild animals) and pet trade issue with primates, and as ZPP we act on intelligence received from our network of informers and rescue these primates. After a period of rehabilitation we prepare these primates for life back in the wild and then “soft release” them into Kafue National Park as cohesive troops. We monitor their health and support them in adjusting to life back in the wild over the next 12 months. Since 2002 our small project has successfully given hundreds of primates their freedom back; all would have otherwise died in chains. My huge thanks to the Born Free Foundation who helped establish the project and have been our major sponsor from day one, as without them our project would not exist and hundreds of primates would still be living in appalling conditions in Zambia with no hope of a future.

Q: Are there any individual animals that are particularly ‘special’ to you?

Ans: All the animals we rescue are special. It always amazes me how after being treated so cruelly by humans that when we rescue them they are instantly forgiving. I have a special bond with the vervet monkeys we rescue - they are so exciting to be around more especially in the wild when you can learn a lot from them about how to live and survive in the bush.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to put so much effort into helping a handful of animals?

Ans: A very good question! You see these primates, baboons and vervet monkeys, they are living creatures like any other animal. They live a complete life in the wild and are no different to human beings. Like us they too deserve freedom, they have a life and they feel pain like any other living animal. It is very unfair for them to die in chains or ropes in the hands of mis-guided people, so I personally feel it is very important to put as much effort as we do to help them have a second chance of freedom.

Q: Anything special been happening lately?

Ans: Yes, we have just released a troop of 21 rescued monkeys and we are trying out a new release protocol which our Senior Technical Advisor Dr Cheryl Mvula and myself have together developed. We are confident that this will increase the primates’ long-term survival prospects so it is very exciting for me to be able to pioneer this in the field. We are also preparing a troop of baboons for release at the end of the year – baboons that have been in captivity for a very long time indeed – so it will be very special to see them take their first steps back in the wild.

You can help

You can contribute to Cosmas’ further animal care training here >

Photos (c)ZPP
Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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