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Cross River Gorilla

Revised Action Plan for the Cross River Gorilla Published

In spite of the continued threats of poaching and habitat destruction, future prospects for the world’s rarest gorilla have improved but are still dependent on continued local and international partnerships, according to a new action plan published by the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group and the Wildlife Conservation Society, and produced in partnership with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, North Carolina Zoo and others. 

The Revised Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Cross River Gorilla: 2014-2019 cites a number of conservation achievements over the past several years, including the expansion of protected areas for the threatened great apes as well as an improved understanding of available gorilla range (more than twice the area previously determined). The report also recommends measures designed to help Cross River gorillas increase their numbers within and beyond core sites, and emphasizes the importance of local and international support for the success of conservation efforts.

Classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the Cross River gorilla numbers fewer than 300 individuals throughout its range, which is limited to a mountainous border region between Nigeria and Cameroon. The Cross River gorilla is the rarest of the four subspecies of gorilla.

The first action plan for Cross River gorillas—published in 2007—initiated the first coordinated conservation strategy using the Cross River gorilla as a “flagship” species as a means of protecting a region considered by many to be one of Africa’s biodiversity “hotspots.”  Implementation of the action plan achieved many of its objectives, including the establishment of two new protected areas in Cameroon—Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary and Takamanda National Park. The plan has also achieved significant gains through: increased community involvement in gorilla conservation in both Cameroon and Nigeria; improvements in wildlife laws and enforcement, particularly in the border region; more public awareness; and greater support from international agencies such as the Convention on Migratory Species and the Great Ape Survival Partnership.

Revision of the plan was initiated in 2012, when 42 experts from seven countries (including government wildlife authorities) met in Limbe, Cameroon to identify the challenges that remain. Specifically, the small size of the entire Cross River gorilla population puts the long-term survival of the subspecies at risk from poaching or a disease outbreak. The potential expansion of human settlements into Nigeria’s Cross River National Park and Cameroon’s Takamanda National Park is another threat, as is potential forest loss due to agricultural development between core sites.

The revised plan calls for: enhanced protection of the gorillas and enforcement of wildlife laws; continued research into the distribution and biology of Cross River gorillas; further implementation of community-based conservation models; new measures to protect vital corridors between gorilla sites; support for improved management of conservation areas; health monitoring and disease prevention; development of ecotourism; support for transboundary conservation; and expanding public awareness of conservation.

This action planning process was completed with support from: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; North Carolina Zoo; Wildlife Conservation Society; IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group; Save Our Species; Arcus Foundation; KfW; UNEP Convention on Migratory Species; UNEP Great Apes Survival Partnership; and other partners.

Reference

Dunn, A., Bergl, R., Byler, D., Eben-Ebai, S., Etiendem, D.N., Fotso, R., Ikfuingei, R., Imong,  I., Jameson, C., Macfie, L., Morgan, B. Nchanji, A., Nicholas, A., Nkembi, L., Omeni, F., Oates, J., Pokempner, A., Sawyer, S. & Williamson, E.A. (2014). Revised Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) 2014–2019. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group & Wildlife Conservation Society, New York.