The Cross River Gorilla Landscape Project was initiated by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to help conserve the cross river gorilla, which is the most threatened ape in Africa with just 300 individuals remaining. The project is based in the Cross River National Park on the Nigerian border with Cameroon, where the gorillas are primarily threatened by the illegal bushmeat trade. The project works with local communities to provide alternative livelihoods and to raise awareness of the status of the species in order to create a sense of community stewardship. So far, the project has been very successful in reducing hunting in the area.
The tropical montane forests of south eastern Nigeria are home to the Mbe Mountains and the Cross River National Park, which covers an area 640km2. One of the sections of the park, Okwangwo, is contiguous with the Takamanda National Park in Cameroon. The area represents the main stronghold for the cross river gorilla, plus a number of other threatened species such as the forest elephant.
The poaching and wildlife trade problem
Species affected Cross River Gorilla Gorilla gorilla diehliProducts in trade
Gross river gorilla for bushmeat, skulls as trophies and live infants for the pet trade.
Overview of the problem
Hunting is widespread in the area and is mostly carried out with wire snares and shotguns to supply the illegal bushmeat trade. Forest elephants are also hunted for their ivory. Threats to species are worsened by a lack of legal protection, growing human populations and deforestation, particularly from illegal logging.
Three villages located within the park have become hotspots for hunting and provide a sanctuary for poachers. Expanding farmlands from these villages are also causing land erosion from within the park.
The anti-IWT initiative
The project works with nine local communities, establishing Community Conservation Associations which manage core areas within the Mbe Mountains. They are given training and technical support and are actively encouraged to participate in conservation, with the aim to inspire a sense of ownership over the forest and the gorillas.
Specifically, the project aims to:
- Build capacity for community management of the Mbe Mountains
- Secure the legal status of the Mbe Mountains as a community wildlife sanctuary
- Train eco-guards to protect and monitor the gorillas
- Develop sustainable alternative livelihoods, for example bee keeping and ecotourism
- Increase local awareness of the status of the gorillas as well as other threatened species
In addition, WCS works extensively in Okwangwo in partnership with the Nigeria National Parks Service to provide technical advice and support, as well as develop conservation activities.
- SMART-based ranger patrols are used to monitor law enforcement as well as monitor the gorillas
- Local communities are given conservation education to raise awareness of the work in Okwangwo. This includes school conservation clubs and mobile film shows
- Hunters are encouraged to seek alternative livelihoods to reduce pressure on the forest and generate other sources of income. Activities range from bee keeping to rearing African giant snails
- WCS is supporting the process to develop Okwangwo as a Transboundary Biosphere Reserve to link with park in Cameroon, a key aspect of the overall conservation strategy
Strengthening disincentives for illegal behaviour
Increasing incentives for wildlife stewardship
Increasing livelihoods that are not related to wildlife
Build/and or support sense of community ownership or stewardship
Improving education and awareness
Has the initiative made a difference?
Since the inception of the project there has been no hunting in the Mbe Mountains. Similarly, SMART-based ranger patrols have successfully reduced levels of hunting in Okwangwo, with over 25 hunters trained in alternative livelihoods practices.
Organisers, donors and partners
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