Nigeria’s Cross River gorillas facing extinction, says WildAid
The Cross River gorilla, which lives in the mountainous border area of Nigeria and Cameroon, is Africa’s most threatened ape, with a population estimated at fewer than 300 individuals, according to WildAid.
Around 100 live in Nigeria and are found only in three protected areas across the Cross River state: Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Mbe Mountains, and the Okwangwo division of Cross River National Park.
In the last two decades, illegal activities such as bushmeat hunting, logging, expansion of settlements, and agricultural encroachment have continued to destroy their habitats and threaten the survival of the rare Cross River gorilla. Snares intended for other animals as bushmeat often trap Cross River gorillas, injuring or killing the great apes.
“Humans have pushed Cross River gorillas to the brink of extinction,” said Simon Denyer, Africa programme manager for WildAid. “The few who remain are scattered in small groups in rugged terrain, and any deaths or further habitat loss would threaten their very survival.
“It is critically important to protect their remaining sanctuary and protect this important part of Nigeria and Cameroon’s natural heritage,” he said.
The Cross River gorilla has been listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as Critically Endangered. The global population of gorillas stands at around 1,063, found in countries such as Nigeria, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda, which is home to over 50 per cent of the gorilla’s global population.
Gorillas provide an important draw for Uganda’s tourism industry, which contributed 7.75per cent of its GDP and 6.7per cent of total national employment in 2018, according to research by the African Nature Based Tourism Platform. While Uganda makes millions of dollars yearly in gorilla tourism and therefore garners more conservation efforts, Nigeria’s gorillas face extremely serious threats.
“It is not too late to save Nigeria’s remaining 100 Cross River gorillas, but we need to act now to protect them,” said WildAid Nigeria representative, Kelechukwu Iruoma, “Individuals and communities need to be enlightened and sensitised on the need to protect our gorillas. We urge the Nigerian government to also update its wildlife laws to combat the threats facing our iconic gorillas.”
WildAid has staged a weeklong campaign to raise awareness about the threats facing Nigeria’s gorillas and to draw support in protecting the remaining Cross River gorillas as the world celebrated World Gorilla Day on Saturday, a special moment dedicated to celebrating the world’s largest living primates.
WildAid called on all Nigerians to “ Say No to Illegal Bushmeat,” as a way to ease some of those pressures on gorillas and other important species, who are trapped and killed in snares set for bushmeat.