An ambitious five-year RM320mil conservation project has been launched to revive the population of Cross River gorilla in their only remaining habitat in Africa.
The world’s rarest gorilla, believed to be down to less than 300 remaining individuals, can be saved with a RM320mil action plan, conservationists say.
The Cross River gorilla lives in a hilly rainforest area around 12,000 sq km in size along the Nigeria-Cameroon border, regarded as a globally significant “biodiversity hotspot”. It is the rarest of four gorilla sub-species and is listed as critically endangered.
But experts at the World Conservation Society believe its population could remain stable and even increase if a new five-year plan is put into place to protect it from poachers who hunt it for bushmeat, and habitat loss as land is turned over to farming.
The plan says that levels of poaching in the past may have been underestimated, and that the forest it lives in is becoming increasingly fragmented, as trees are cleared for farming, particularly in Nigeria.
“With such a small population, the loss of even a few individuals each year represents a very serious threat to their long-term survival,” the report says.
The plan for 2014-2019 calls for more research into the gorillas’ distribution, more local-led conservation efforts, monitoring of disease, eco-tourism developments, and safeguarding of “corridors” between the species’ main sites.
The species has shorter palates than other gorillas, and short, strong jaws, which ecologists believe may be because they feed on tough tree bark during dry seasons.
“The outlook for the Cross River gorilla is encouraging, provided we build on past successes and continue with key partnerships to protect this great ape and its remaining habitat,” said Andrew Dunn, lead author of the report. – Guardian News Service