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PG student captures footages of endangered Cross River gorillas

  1. A Masters student at the University of Calabar, Mr Adekambi Adeyinka, has captured stunning footages of the world’s rarest great ape, the Cross River gorillas, in the Afi Wildlife Sanctuary.
Cross River gorilla
Footage of the endangered Cross River gorilla as captured by Adeyinka

Adeyinka, who is of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife, disclosed this on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, while reacting to the need to protect the rare apes on the list of endangered species due to human activities.

The extraordinary sightings marked the first successful photos since three graduate students at the university began studying this elusive subspecies in 2023.

The study is part of the Cross River Gorilla initiative.

The Cross River Gorilla, known as Gorilla gorilla diehli, is a critically endangered subspecies of the western gorilla.

It was named a new species in 1904 by Paul Matschie, a mammalian taxonomist working at the Humboldt University Zoological Museum in Berlin, but its populations were not systematically surveyed until 1987.

It is the most western and northern form of gorilla and is restricted to the forested hills and mountains of the Cameroon-Nigeria border region at the headwaters of Cross River.

Estimates from 2014 suggest that fewer than 250 mature Cross River gorillas remain, making them the world’s rarest great ape.

Adeyinka said that the sighting was more than just a visual success and underscored the importance of community involvement and innovative research in conservation.

“By working closely with local communities, we are not only gathering crucial data but also fostering a deeper understanding and commitment to protect these incredible great apes and their habitat,” he said.

Dr Joseph Onoja, Director General, Nigeria Conservation Foundation (NCF), expressed hope that the initiative would contribute to the realisation of their strategic pillar of saving species in peril.

Onoja said the University of Calabar in 2022 commenced a five-year Community Conservation Graduate Student Scholarship Programme for the Conservation of Cross River Gorilla.

He said the initiative was funded by the Wilder Institute – Calgary Zoo and implemented by NCF in partnership with the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation Research (CBCR), Ghana.

“The programme, which involves supporting graduate research projects in Nigeria, including scholarships for one Ph.D. student and four master’s students in UniCal for five years.

“This collaborative initiative extends beyond borders to allow an exchange programme for knowledge sharing that creates successful community conservation initiatives,” he said.

Prof. Francis Bisong, Secretary, Cross River Gorilla Conservation Project Committee, said Adeyinka’s result was promising as it demonstrated the power of collaboration to save the severely endangered Cross River gorillas.

Bisong said the capture of two silverback gorillas on trial cameras in the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary emphasised the need for innovative technology, collaborative and community engagement to safeguard the species and its environment.

“These findings highlight the sanctuary’s vital role in gorilla protection and the need for more research and collaboration to conserve Cross River gorillas and the region’s rich biodiversity.

“I urge the scientific community, conservation organisations, and stakeholders at all levels to support and extend this essential effort to protect one of the world’s rarest and most fragile species,” he said.

Dr Mary Liao, Conservation Manager, Wilder Institute, said the images captured by the camera traps were an incredible glimpse into the life of the elusive and magnificent creatures.

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