cross river gorilla

Nigeria’s gorillas face extinction, conservationists cry out

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The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species has classified the Cross River Gorillas, found only in Nigeria, as critically endangered.

This classification spells trouble for the Nigerian ecosystem and biodiversity.

With only about 100 Cross River Gorillas left in the Nigerian wild, the Cross River Gorilla is a rare subspecies of the already critically endangered Western Gorilla.

The gorillas can only be found in the highlands of the Cross River forests and on the borders between Nigeria and Cameroon.

In July 2022, the Director, Cross River Landscape for Wildlife Conservative Society, Dr Inaoyom Imong, raised the alarm over the decimation of the gorillas.

He said only about 100 Cross River Gorillas are now left in the Cross River Forest, with about 200 remaining on the Cameroonian part of the forest.

This is a worrisome development, and conservationists argue that even the safety of the 100 left in the Nigerian wild cannot be guaranteed.

In the spirit of this World Gorilla Day, celebrated on September 24, conservationists are calling for more action to stop any further loss of the native gorillas.

“The main threats to their existence have constantly been hunting,” said a Cross River Gorilla Campaign Manager, Hillary Chukwu.

The conservationist, in an interview with Mongabay, a conservation education site said, “Hunting by local hunters is one of the biggest threats to the existence of the gorillas.

“Poverty and unemployment are the reasons for that because education is not enough.

“Even those who are attending higher education institutions return home to farm and hunt because there are no jobs.”

Another conservationist, Mark Ofua, said illegal logging also drives the gorillas away from their habitat.

“The main threats are habitat loss and poaching. Habitat loss due to illegal logging, deforestation, and farmland expansions remains the biggest threat to the survival of these species. Then these illegal logging routes open up pathways for hunters and poachers to reach these animals,’’ he said.

The Director, Cross River Landscape for Wildlife Conservative Society, Dr Inaoyom Imong, said the problem has never been legislation to protect this endangered wildlife.

According to him, what is needed is the enforcement of relevant laws.

He said, “Tourism and subsequent development of local communities housing these gorillas is another reason we must protect our gorillas.

“Other countries with good conservation and tourist frameworks are reaping huge profits in foreign exchange from tourism.

“A one-hour walk in the forests to see these animals in Rwanda can cost up to $1,500 per person with associated costs for the park.”

Recently, there have been Africa-wide campaigns by WildAid, a non-profit wildlife conservation agency to create awareness of the importance of these animals in the ecosystem.

The Nigerian representative of the NGO, Kelechukwu Iruoma, said, “We need to act now to protect them.

“All stakeholders must come together to contribute their quota to restoring our gorilla population. This is why WildAid is engaging in media campaigns to raise awareness of the threats facing gorillas in Nigeria, with a view to enlightening and sensitising Nigerians on the need to protect our iconic gorillas.”


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