Monday, August 12, 2013

The Frenchman's Farm and Mona Monkeys


Our final plan in Ghana was to visit the Ankasa Rainforest and stay at the Frenchman's Farm (a small bed and breakfast which is totally off the grid). We arrived at the bed and breakfast to find that The Farm was actually a Cacao farm with several people who live on the land and cultivate the cacao for The Frenchman, Paul.

Cacao grows on the tree
It's picked and peeled
The seeds are removed
(they're sweet and tasty but taste nothing like chocolate and there's a pit)  

Then the seeds are dried on long, flat tables.
 Later they're sold to chocolate companies and ground into cacao powder which flavors chocolate. 
Paul is called "The Frenchman" because he lived most of his life in the Ivory Coast, worked in Paris for a large part of his life and he speaks only French. Ankasa National Park (where we were staying and hiking) covers the southernmost border of Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Unlike our Uganda hike in Semiliki National Park (on the border of the Congo) two years ago, we saw no people outside of our group in the forest during our hikes. We were assured that this was because we came to the forest during the rainy season (and you're not supposed to come during the rainy season). It was fortunate for us that we only experienced rain for about an hour of one of our hikes. The rest of the time was very clear and steamy hiking weather.

We stayed there for three nights and two days. During that time we saw Mona and Spot-Nosed monkeys, dwarf crocodiles and some of us (not Kate or I) saw a pangolin. Pangolin is worth mentioning because it is very endangered and it's very hard to find. It's a mammal that resembles an armadillo.

One evening, after we got to know the little children from the farm very well, we were taught how to strap a child onto the back (the way that African Mommas do it).
Kate got very good at it.
We were welcomed by the Frenchman and his family who catered to our every need. They packed us a lunch to go into the forest, they prepared breakfast early in the morning and they brought us dinner each night. We were treated to the delicious cuisine of the Ivory Coast, including fish, chicken and beef dishes of all sorts. There was such a variety of food each evening and we were amazed at their kind willingness to provide plenty of vegetarian options for Kate (vegetarians are pretty unheard of in Africa) along with several meat dishes each evening.

While we were at the Frenchman's Farm, the Frenchman learned that Corey is a primatologist and one evening he brought another (African) primatologist, David, to meet her. We learned that the Frenchman is a community leader on the Committee for the Preservation of and that David works for an NGO that monitors the forest, training locals as guides and teaching them to combat poaching. The NGO is  WAPCA, the West African Primate Conservation Action, trying to preserve critically endangered species of primates. David offered for us to stop at a different forest on our way out of Ghana to take  a hike to search for a small population of White-Naped Mangabey. While we stopped there for a brief hike, we found many poacher traps set for small mammals but we found no Mangabey. We did, however, come across a tortoise!

Bell's Hinge-Back Tortoise

Poacher trap, directing small mammals to the larger gap between the sticks where they'd knock the horizontal stick over and a wire would close around their leg, trapping the small animal. (we destroyed all of the traps we found, but there were many)

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