Drill baby drill! The fate of African biodiversity and the monkey you’ve never heard of
Commentary by: Zach Fitzner
Equatorial Guinea is not a country that stands very large in the American consciousness. In fact most Americans think you mean Papua New Guinea when you mention it or are simply baffled. When I left for Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea, I also knew almost nothing about the island, the nation, or the Bioko drills (Mandrillus leucophaeus poensis). The subspecies of drill is unique to Bioko Island and encountering them was an equally unique experience. I initially went to Bioko as a turtle research assistant but ended up falling in love with the entire ecosystem, especially the Bioko drills as I tagged along with drill researchers.
Bioko itself looks a bit like a bean; if the bean was 779 square miles, made out of dormant volcanoes, covered in lush rainforest and floating in the Atlantic off Africa’s west coast that is. The island is part of the Cameroonian line, a chain of dormant volcanoes extending west from the mainland. Ten thousand years ago rising sea levels cut off a peninsula, creating Bioko, which is the main island of Equatorial Guinea, a small Spanish-speaking nation in equatorial, western Africa. Bioko has a population of about 260,000 spread throughout some 26 cities arranged mostly near the coast.
But Bioko is also a refuge for wildlife, including seven species of monkey and eleven subspecies, hidden away in the rough interior of the island. Wildlife biodiversity and endemism (species found only on the island) are high because Bioko is in the tropics, and an island with a relatively low human population. The Bioko drill is arguably the island’s flagship species…
(read more: MongaBay) (photos: Drill Films)