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Creating a New Sanctuary for the Cross River Gorilla

Nigeria

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  • Cross River Gorilla Pictured with a Camera Trap. Photo by WCS Nigeria.

The Mbe Mountains are located within the rainforests of Cross River State in southeastern Nigeria, which is globally recognized as a hotspot for biodiversity with high levels of species richness and endemism. The Mbe Mountains contain an estimated population of 30 Critically Endangered Lowland Gorillas, which are some of Africa’s most threatened great apes. Importantly, this site also connects isolated subpopulations of gorillas in the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary to those in Cross River National Park. The proposed protected area is vital for other animals such as Critically Endangered Slender-snouted Crocodiles, Endangered Chimpanzees and Drill monkeys, Vulnerable African Elephants and other large mammals such as African Buffalo. Despite their extraordinary biodiversity, the Mbe Mountains have remained without protection, although they are recognized as a critical corridor for wildlife between two existing protected areas.

To secure this vital wildlife corridor for long term conservation, Rainforest Trust and local partners Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)-Nigeria and Conservation Association of the Mbe Mountains (CAMM) are working to officially gazette the area as the 21,004-acre Mbe Mountains Community Wildlife Sanctuary.

Biodiversity

  • An Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee mother and baby taken by a Camera Trap. Photo by WCS Nigeria.

The Mbe Mountains are home to roughly 30 of the Cross River subspecies of Lowland Gorillas. This gorilla subspecies has a total population consisting of fewer than 300 mature individuals, and this Critically Endangered primate has had a 59 percent decline since 1995 in the availability of habitats suitable for their survival. Without immediate protection, the Cross River Gorilla will be pushed even closer to the edge of extinction.

Other threatened species in the area include the Critically Endangered Slender-snouted Crocodile, Endangered Chimpanzee, Vulnerable African Elephants and Vulnerable White-bellied Pangolins. Over 370 bird species have been recorded in Cross River forests, including a number of range-restricted species such as the Mount Kupe Bush-shrike. Some 1,570 plant species are found in these forests, including medicinal plants and orchids. Over 64 species of reptiles, 61 species of amphibians and 54 species of fish have been recorded in this region, a number of which are range-restricted.

Challenges

  • Mbe eco-guard recording illegal ebony logging. Photo by WCS Nigeria.

Subsistence and commercial hunting as well as habitat destruction from farming and logging are the main threats to the Mbe Mountains. Hunting with shotguns and wire snares is a serious threat to all wildlife in the area, including gorillas. Given that fewer than 300 Cross River Gorillas survive, the loss of even one individual is significant. The government is currently planning to construct a superhighway in Cross River State, which poses an additional threat to the Mbe Mountains.

Communities

  • CAMM meeting to resolve differences between Kanyang 1 and the other Mbe communities. Photo by WCS Nigeria.

The Mbe Mountains are surrounded by nine communities belonging to the Boki tribe that claim traditional ownership of the forest. Farming, hunting and gathering and trading of non-timber forest products are the main economic activities. In 2005, the nine Mbe communities formed CAMM to initiate management of the Mbe Mountains and mobilize community buy-in and support for conservation.

WCS-Nigeria has worked in the landscape for many years, nurturing excellent working relationships with the local communities and developing key partnerships with government agencies.

Solutions

  • Mbe Eco-Guards. Photo by WCS Nigeria.

Rainforest Trust will support our local partners to officially designate the 21,004- acre Mbe Mountains Community Wildlife Sanctuary with the endorsement of the Cross River State Government. We will help demarcate the new protected area, develop the management plan, increase the numbers of  well-trained and equipped forest guards, and provide capacity building for CAMM.

 

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