Rachel Hogan anticipated a fun adventure in Africa when she packed her bags and left her Birmingham, UK home in 2001 at the age of 25. She probably wouldn’t have believed that a decade later, she would be the director of a primate sanctuary in Cameroon called Ape Action Africa, with over 350 animals in her care, and 40+ staff at her side.
Rachel’s stint as a volunteer at Ape Action Africa (AAA) began with a commitment of three months. As more and more primates, largely those orphaned by the bushmeat trade, came under her care, she realized that she could not leave the animals until she could improve the site’s infrastructure and facilities, thus giving the animals a proper sanctuary home. This was her promise to them.
With weekly primate rescues and surrenders, there was a constant need for construction of new enclosures, more food, and money to pay a growing staff. In particular, a group of young gorillas needed help. While their current space was acceptable, its proximity to the village meant an increased risk of stress, as well as meningitis and other human-transmitted illnesses. These photographs document the big move from their old enclosure to the new.
With the help of gorilla keepers and veterinarians, the animals were sedated, health-checked and moved to their new enclosure, a 1km x 1km space in the jungle, full of towering trees and opportunities for foraging and exploration.
After 48 hours acclimatizing in an adjoining satellite cage, the gorillas were released into the new enclosure. All went as Rachel had dreamed; they ran into the new space to explore. Smiling, she followed them along the outside of the enclosure until they disappeared into the forest. She then had a good cry, and proclaimed “Ok Big Man (referring to God), you can take me now, I’ll die happy.”