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Conservationists meet, beg government, international community to save gorillas

By Anietie Akpan, Calabar
12 December 2019   |   3:32 am
Conservationists have raised the alarm over the safety of Cross River gorillas, urging local and international inventions to save the mammals from extinction.

Conservationists have raised the alarm over the safety of Cross River gorillas, urging local and international inventions to save the mammals from extinction.

Rising from a two-day workshop funded by the United Stares Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Calabar, the experts said: “Due to past hunting, it is estimated that only 300 Cross River gorillas survive in the mountains between Nigeria and Cameroun”.

The participants, in a press statement issued by the Country Director of WCS, Nigeria Programme, Mr. Andrew Dunn, stated: “Main threats to the survival of the species were identified as hunting and habitat destruction due to farming and logging.”In recent years, logging of ebony has become a disturbing activity in the state, adversely affecting the all of the gorilla sites, including Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, the Mbe Mountains and the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park.

The stakeholders frowned on the continued neglect of Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, urging the Cross River State Government to ensure that “protection is improved and that it receives the necessary political support.” The statement read: “The most threatened of all African apes, the Cross River gorilla, is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ based on its small population size, their fragmented distribution across a large complex landscape and ongoing threats to their survival from habitat loss and poaching.

“Roughly 100 Cross River gorillas are found in Nigeria (with an additional 200 in Cameroun). In Nigeria, Cross River gorillas are restricted to three sites in Cross River State: Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, the Mbe Mountains and the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park. The largest and most important of the three sites is the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park, managed by the Nigeria National Park Service.”

Dr. Inaoyom Imong of the WCS had said, “there is a real crisis facing Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. There are at least 1,000 illegal farms throughout the sanctuary which are expanding on a daily basis and unless action is taken soon, it is likely that the sanctuary and its gorillas will soon be lost forever. Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary has been neglected for many years and we are calling on the Cross River State Government to urgently prioritise the protection of the sanctuary before it is too late.

“It was also observed that the enclave communities in the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park continue to expand and participants at the workshop felt that their presence is detrimental for the long-term future of the national park. They called on the Federal Government to revisit plans for the voluntary resettlement of the enclaves as soon as possible. Cross River National Park is the richest biodiversity site in the country and recognised as a site of international importance. The gradual decline of such an important national park must be prevented.”Consequently, the participants came out with a “New Conservation Action Plan 2020-2025 to help save Cross River Gorillas: Africa’s Most Threatened Ape.”