Page 10 - Wild Hope - Vol 9
P. 10

The Days of Sunshine

                                                                          Raising an Orphaned Baboon in Africa

                                                                          STORY  AND PHOTOGRAPHS
                                                                          BY   ROBIN  HUFFMAN

               Sunshine came into my life one January   spiky, umber-colored hair is velvety soft   transport cage next to my bed. At first
               day in 2013. I was volunteering for the   as I pick him up. I name him Sunshine.   light, like all the sanctuary primates,
               fifth time at Ape Action Africa, which    My job as caregiver is to raise him to be   Sunshine is awake and ready to play.
               is nestled in the secondary-growth forest    healthy, happy, strong, confident and   I open his cage and he leaps into my
               of the Mefou Wildlife Sanctuary, an hour   independent, so he can live and thrive   arms or wraps himself around my leg
               from Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon.    with his own kind.             like Velcro. I manage to dress, peeling
               This primate sanctuary looks after     He will spend three months with me   him off one leg and attaching him to the
               orphans of the bushmeat and illegal    in quarantine, after which he’ll join other   other while I slip my pants and socks on.
               pet trades.                          sanctuary primates. I settle him into   After a bottle of human baby formula,
                  The sanctuary veterinarian sets a   his daytime home for now, which will   it’s time for breakfast—assorted fruit and
               long, wooden crate in front of me—my   make him feel safe and secure—a large   eggs. It’s fascinating watching Sunshine
               next caregiving assignment. I’m eager   cage outfitted with hammocks, fragrant   eat—he’s so uncoordinated! He looks
               but also heartbroken—another primate   leaves, a mirror, ropes to grip, swing   competent until he misses his mouth,
               orphaned, confiscated from wildlife   from and perch on. It’ll take Sunshine a   drops the bit of food I’ve given him and
               traffickers by the courageous Last Great   while to master them, and it’s endlessly   can’t manage to grasp it again.
               Ape Organization, the first wildlife law   amusing to watch his progress. He is   And in an occasional tantrum, he
               enforcement NGO in Africa.           smart and determined. Observing him   flings himself into his hammock, just
                  I open the box. Staring up at me with   trying to climb the shelf unit in my room,   his head peeking out, staring at me
               shiny, coal-black eyes is an infant baboon,   each attempt is better than the last, until   indignantly. At other times, in a call he
               not yet three months old. His face is   he conquers it and looks at me with an   would make to summon his mother,
               creamy pink and wrinkled, with perfect   expression I interpret as victorious.  he tilts his head up, lifts his eyebrows,
               heart-shaped nostrils and four teeth. His   Sunshine spends nights in a large   his ears and hair flattening against

               8   WILD  HOPE

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