“Doctor Babs, Doctor Babs”, a concerned feminine voice urges from across the dimly lit clinic. It’s just slipping past 9am, and while the tropical sun is been up three hours, only the faintest daylight filters through the forest canopy and into the new vet clinic. Red, black and white wires tipped in copper hang like vines from the ceiling, the place where one day light sockets will grow, and bulbs will glow. For now, Keeper Stephanie stands silhouetted at the door with an anxious baby chimp in her arms awaiting veterinarian Babs gesture to enter. Little Jenny, an orphan of less than two years becomes the new clinic’s first patient.
The cut is small, like little Jenny herself, but across her hand; a hand that must grab, clutch, cling and swing, all in a waiting world of bacteria and viruses, unguarded the wound is the perfect birthplace for infection.
In a future world, vet Babs flips a switch and there’s light, then to work cleaning and suturing the wound, simple. But even in that future illuminated utopia he wouldn’t order the diesel generator on. Not for such a tiny wound. Instead he and a vet tech would dawn battery powered headlamps and coordinate their movements to shine a poor puddle of light in the direction of the hand and begin the repair.
This is Jenny’s magical morning. We have just finished installing a dozen inflatable solar LUCI Lights, GLOBIO’s first full vet clinic installation as part of the LUCI
LUCI Light Project: lights donated by everyday people and kids wanting to make a real world change and help great apes. Three lights over the prep counter, another trio hanging strategically over the operating table, and others light up the pharmacy, supply room and office. Four of the LUCI’s are Pro 2.0’s, USB charging enabled, and power up smart phones the vets use with a variety of key medical apps.
Mefou Primate Sanctuary sits just off the electrical grid in a thousand hectares of tropical rainforest an hour south of Cameroon’s capitol Yaoundé. Run by nonprofit Ape Action Africa, it is home to over 300 primates from majestic Western lowland gorillas and a crowd of lively chimps, to hundreds of monkey. This diverse collection of orphans is the collateral damage from the illegal bushmeat trade and deforestation driven habitat loss. Cameroon had the richest diversity of primates on Earth, but nearly all are now endangered.
Babs looked up from his delicate hand cleaning and declared, “these lights are amazing, they’re good enough to do surgery.” Returning to Jenny’s hand, he said, “I think we should keep them like this even when we have power [for electric light].”
The challenge with many of the veterinarian facilities in primate sanctuaries is a reliable, consistent source of light. For Ape African Africa the huge diesel generator is simply too costly to run except for a daily three-hour window at dusk, and during emergencies. Increasingly, with the growing number of orphans, issues like Jenny’s hand are becoming common, putting pressure on the vet resources. Before LUCI the solution was off-gassing kerosene lamps and a sea of alkaline batteries, eventually discarded and filling pits in the forest floor. Over time batteries leach their deadly leads and mercury. With LUCI an afternoon strategically lying in the tropical sun pouring down on the vet clinic’s roof enables hours of future light.
With her hand cleaned up little Jenny and Stephanie returned to the forest nursery with the other babies. Babs looked around the lit clinic and in his typical understated manner said, “These [LUCI’s] will work just fine. I think we’ll keep them.” Then half smiled at me — these dozen lights were going nowhere.
GLOBIO launched the LUCI Light Project to shed light on the survival of great apes across the tropics of Equatorial Africa and Borneo/Sumatra. Our goal was simple; get lights in the hands of dedicated people doing the hard work to save apes. Simple, but changing lives. We enable sanctuary vet clinics, neighboring schools and field conservation teams to see what they were doing, and do it better. With donated solar-powered LUCI lights we set out to change the darkness dilemma into a well-lit solution. Your LUCI donation does that — simple.