Opened in 2008, the BBPP Wildlife Research Center is the first scientific field station in the region. It is set in mountainous virgin rainforest near Moka Villages and serves as a training and research venue for scientists, students and others interested in the island’s wildlife.
The Research Center consists of two buildings: a two-story staff house with a small reception room and an outdoor teaching patio and a one-story building currently being renovated into an education center and research lab. It is outfitted with indoor plumbing, electricity generators and the only satellite Internet connection on the southern half of the island.
Since its opening, the Center has served as a base for field research activities, garnering the interest of scientists, university students, diplomats, school groups and Equatoguineans at large. The station serves as a base for field research activities for faculty and students from the National University of Equatorial Guinea, for the participants in Drexel University’s Study Abroad on Bioko Island, and for visiting scientists from all parts of the world.
More than 550 people have signed the guest book, approximately half from the country and the rest representing more than 35 foreign countries. Professors and students at Equatorial Guinea’s National University have enjoyed fruitful collaborations with such visiting scientists as American mammalogist Ron Pine, Kenyan botanist Quentin Luke, and Kenyan butterfly expert Steve Collins, who has already reported a new species of butterfly from the forests near the field station. Visiting students have come from Drexel University, Arcadia University, the University of Calgary, the University of Mississippi, Lafayette University, the University of Hawaii, the University of Alaska and the University of North Carolina, among others.
The Center has hosted training courses in global positioning systems (GPS) and wildlife monitoring strategies for local Equatoguineans, a three-week tropical ecology course for Equatoguinean and American undergraduate students and educational programs for school groups. The station also serves as a climate monitoring site, measuring temperatures and rainfall and tracking the condition of surrounding trees, data that can be used to establish a baseline to study the effects of climate change.
Visiting the Center
The Center is situated at the entrance to the Moka Villages, adjacent to the southern Highlands and Gran Caldera Scientific Reserve and just 8 km from the southern border of Pico Basile National Park.
Visitors, including tourists and school children, are welcome to stop in for educational programs. A striking series of 4 backlit posters, designed by BBPP’s Outreach Coordinator Jessica Weinberg and funded by a grant from the International Primate Protection League illustrate the importance of controlling the bushmeat trade. Post cards featuring Bioko Island wildlife, also the work of Jessica Weinberg, are for sale.
Research Center staff can arrange for guides to the local attractions (the Cascades of the Ilyadi River and the Pico Biao Crater Lake). Because of its cool climate and central location, Moka is the ideal place from which to explore and study Bioko Island's rich flora and fauna. For more information, consult our section on Moka.
Establishing the Research Center
The Research Center owes its existence to two generous grants from the ExxonMobil Foundation presented to Drexel University and BBPP as part of Foundation’s collaboration in the wildlife education, conservation and research mission of BBPP.
The first 2-year grant (2006 & 2007) funded the rental of the property from the villages at Moka and paid for basic renovation. BBPP wildlife patrols were based at the field station and nearby census trails were established. The grant also funded a study to explore the various roles that the wildlife center might assume in order to meet BBPP’s mission of protecting Bioko Island wildlife. University –level wildlife research and training in partnership with UNGE was determined to be the most effective, with lesser roles for local outreach and ecotourism.
The second 2-year grant (2008 & 2009) is funding additional improvements to the property and expanding the research program established by BBPP and UNGE: training for UNGE students and professors; research programs on the response of wildlife to commercial hunting; ecology of nesting sea turtles, and local responses to global climate change, and training for local employees. Additional outreach programs for local school children and for people living in the nearby villages are also planned.
The research center officially opened in the summer of 2008 (see the Drexel University Press Release of 15 July 2008). At that time it had already hosted over 550 visitors, approximately half local citizens and half from more than 35 different countries. It had also served as the venue for Arcadia University’s course BI. 333 Field Research in Tropical Ecology three times, and as the base for field studies by Ron Pine from Chicago’s Field Museum (small mammals), Steve Collins (butterflies) from Kenya’s African Butterfly Research Institute, and Quentin Luke (botany), affiliated with several institutions including Kew Gardens and Missouri Botanical Gardens.
History of the Field Station Property
The buildings that now house the BBPP research center were originally built as a vacation home complete with nearby caretakers’ residence during the Spanish colonial era. The property is still known locally by its original name, Casa Risiiti. It is in the Basque style, perhaps because the nearby mountains reminded its original owners of the Pyrenees in northeastern Spain. Both its location at the entrance to the Moka villages and its unusual style make it one of the most distinctive structures in the Moka valley.
After Equatorial Guinea’s independence from Spain, the property reverted to the (often contentious) communal ownership of the two nearby villages, Moka Bioko and Moka Malabo. A fire destroyed the caretakers’ quarters, leaving only the walls and floors of the original structure. The remains were quickly overgrown by vines and trees.
In the mid-1990’s it was rented to a Spanish conservation group, Los Amigos de Doñana, who renovated the main building as a lodge for ecotourists and a base for excursions to the southern beaches of Bioko Island. After Los Amigos de Doñana left Equatorial Guinea in early 1998, the property was unoccupied until BBPP arrived in fall, 2005.
Initially BBPP personnel assumed that the only structure on the rented land was the two-story Basque style building used by Los Amigos de Doñana. It was only when the land itself was cleared that the remains of the second structure became visible. The second building (the caretakers’ quarters) was renovated and a new roof deck added during 2007.