Photo Credit: CRG_CameraTrapImage

Saving Africa’s Most Endangered Apes through Community-Based Conservation of Key Cross River Gorilla Habitat in Nigeria and Cameroon



Watch the amazing video footage of Cross River Gorillas that WCS’s team in Cameroon recently obtained from camera traps deployed in Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary. These represent the best images of this charismatic species ever obtained.

Conservation Problem

The Cross River Gorilla is Africa's least known and most threatened ape, with only 250-300 individuals remaining. Found only in a small mountainous area located at the headwaters of the River Cross that straddles the border between Cameroon and Nigeria, the Cross River Gorilla is the most western and northern taxon of gorilla. It is restricted in range to a complex landscape made up of fragmented forests, many of which are not currently formally protected.

The Cross River Gorilla's key threats are hunting and habitat loss. Hunting has reduced the population to a perilously low level, surviving only in the most rugged and relatively inaccessible areas. As the human population continues to grow, and as development results in new roads and increased demand for farmland and forest products, the gorillas' status has become critical. Their remaining population is still highly fragmented with much of the potential forest corridors under no formal protection, and the future of the Cross River Gorilla is by no means assured. However local communities largely depend on forest resources and therefore a balance between local human needs and gorilla conservation is required.

project activities

With the support of SOS - Save Our Species, this project - implemented by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) - will carry out activities related to the specific issues affecting the gorillas on both sides of the Cross River.

In Cameroon, more than one-third of the gorilla population occurs in unprotected forest and is under threat from hunting and habitat loss. This project will support the expansion of the "Gorilla Guardian" community network, created by WCS to improve gorilla survival prospects in the most vulnerable unprotected forest sites. Gorilla Guardians serve as conservation ambassadors in their communities, and carry out monitoring of gorillas and of illegal activities. The project will provide training and equipment to support the Gorilla Guardian villages and will strengthen the capacity of government forestry officials to collaborate effectively with communities on gorilla conservation and law enforcement outside of protected areas.

In Nigeria, most Cross River Gorillas are in protected areas such as Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park, but the largest population in the country is found within the Mbe Mountains, which is a community forest. This project will establish the legal framework for community conservation of this area and its gorillas, and will support the development of community institutions and management structures for its operations. Community enforcement and monitoring systems will be improved through the provision of equipment and training of ecoguards and developing law enforcement monitoring systems that can be used by the community association to monitor the impact of its conservation effort.

Project outcomes

Through community forest conservation in key habitats on both sides of the Nigeria-Cameroon border, the project aims to reduce the threats to these Critically Endangered gorillas, as well as those to the sympatric Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, and Drill.

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