A group of United States-based wildlife conservation advocates have donated field equipment worth over N4 million to the National Parks Service (NPS) of Nigeria, in a bid to save the endangered Cross River gorillas, Africa’s most threatened apes.
The group which comprised of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) with funds from the Arcus Foundation, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Rainforest Trust, also donated ten motorcycles along with the equipment. This move will help to support ranger patrols in the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Country Director of WCS (Nigeria Programme), Andrew Dunn noted that, “The equipment …include tents, rucksacks sleeping mats and rain ponchos to allow rangers to camp inside the national park for up to one week and conduct long-distance foot patrols essential for the protection of the endangered species.
“Three specialised camera-traps were also donated to the National Park Service and WCS is planning to provide specialised training in the use of camera traps in April this year.”
The statement further added that due to past hunting, it was estimated that only 300 Cross River gorillas survive in the mountains between Nigeria and Cameroon and the most important site for Cross River gorillas in Nigeria was the Okwangwo Division of the Cross River National Park.
Dunn expressed hope that the field equipment would be put to good use adding that additional equipment for the Oban Division of the Cross River National Park would be provided later in the year.
He said, “The most threatened of all African apes, the Cross River gorilla is listed as critically endangered based on its small population size, their fragmented distribution across a large complex landscape and ongoing threats to their survival from habitat loss and poaching.
“About 100 Cross River gorillas are found in Nigeria (with an additional 200 in Cameroon). In Nigeria, Cross River gorillas are restricted to Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, the Mbe Mountains and the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park. The largest and most important of the three sites is the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park, managed by the NPS,” the statement added.
In response, the Conservator-General of the NPS, Dr. Ibrahim Goni, commended the WCS for the donation, while urging more support for other parks in the country.