The Cross River gorilla is a subspecies of the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) found only in an isolated region along the Nigeria/Cameroon border. It is the most endangered gorilla subspecies, numbering only around 300 individuals.
Once presumed extinct in Nigeria and only rediscovered in the 1980s, approximately 100 Cross River gorilla individuals live in Nigeria in three contiguous sites in Cross River State: the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park, Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and the Mbe Mountains Community Forest.
Extremely shy of humans due to a long history of persecution, these gorillas prefer a dense forest habitat in the most rugged and inaccessible parts of their range. Their presence can be detected mainly by indirect signs such as nests, dung and feeding trails.
The Mbe Mountains forest, which is home to about a third of the Nigeria gorilla population, has been managed jointly by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Conservation Association of the Mbe Mountains as a community wildlife sanctuary since 2005.
“It is extremely exciting to see so many young Cross River gorillas — an encouraging indication that these gorillas are now well protected and reproducing successfully, after previous decades of hunting,” said Inaoyom Imong, Director of WCS Nigeria’s Cross River Landscape.
“While hunters in the region may no longer target gorillas, the threat of hunting remains, and we need to continue to improve the effectiveness of our protection efforts.”
“It is wonderful to see images of gorillas from the Mbe Mountains that show so many young animals, indicating that the population there is in good health,” said City University of New York’s Professor John Oates.
“I am very happy to see these wonderful pictures of Cross River gorillas with many babies in our forest,” said Otu Gabriel Ocha, the head chief of one of the surrounding villages (Kanyang I).
“This shows that our conservation efforts in partnership with WCS are yielding fruits.”
“I hope that we can continue these efforts so that we can pass the heritage to future generations.”
“Seeing these photos of Cross River gorillas with many infants makes me very happy because they tell me that the population is increasing,” said Chief Damian Aria, the village head of Wula I.
“I feel honored to be part of the efforts that are producing these results and I commend WCS for their support to protect the natural resources God has blessed us with.”
“Seeing this today rekindles my hope that our communities will benefit from ecotourism in the future,” said Otu Bernard A. Eban, clan head of Abo Clan.
“We will further strengthen our local laws to protect Cross River gorillas in the Mbe Mountains.”
“I wish to take this opportunity to appeal to our partners to support us more to find sustainable economic alternatives to bushmeat hunting and other activities that destroy our forest.”
This article is based on a press-release provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society.