Nigerians Urged to Protect Cross River Gorillas, to Boost Local Tourism

Sunday Okobi

As the world celebrates the World Gorilla Day 2023, Wild Africa Fund has urged the Nigerian public to protect its unique Cross River gorillas by supporting ongoing efforts to safeguard their populations and habitat.

Also the efforts are meant to reduce demand for commercial bush meat that endangers their lives  because this  could also  boost local tourism in Nigeria.

The agency stated that the Cross River gorilla lives in the mountainous region between Nigeria and Cameroon, and its Africa’s most endangered ape species.

The Fund said it is estimated that no  fewer than 300 individuals of these gorillas remain in the wild, with 100 of them living in Cross River State and the rest in Cameroon.

According to the group in a statement made available to THISDAY yesterday, “In Nigeria, they are found in the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, the Mbe Mountains, and the Okwangwo division of the Cross River National Park.

The statement issued by the Nigeria Representative at Wild Africa Fund, Festus Iyorah, said: “The Cross River gorilla, one of Nigeria’s most iconic and cherished wildlife species, faces numerous threats, including hunting and habitat loss due to agricultural expansion, commercial logging and the encroachment of human settlements into its habitat. While the hunting of gorillas has reduced over the last few years, wire snares set for other animals in the game ‘bush-meat’ trade can also entrap gorillas, leading to injuries, and in some cases, death.

“We can’t afford to lose even one of our 100 Cross River gorillas at this critical stage. Let us all come together to protect the Cross River gorilla and ensure that this remarkable species continues to thrive in our country for generations to come.”

Iyorah said Nigeria has taken significant steps to address these challenges and protect the Cross River gorillas.

He noted that the National Park Service and Cross River State Government in collaboration with local and international conservation organisations have been working to safeguard the gorilla’s habitat, enforce anti-poaching laws, and promote community-based conservation initiatives.

Also, in the statement, the co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Wild Africa Fund, Peter Knights, added that: “These efforts are crucial not only for the survival of the Cross River gorilla but also for the preservation of our rich biodiversity and the sustainable development of our communities.

There are several benefits to protecting these great apes. Gorilla-based tourism is an invaluable asset to some African countries like Rwanda and Uganda, offering a win-win scenario for both conservation and economic development.  Tourists from around the globe are drawn to the magic of gorilla encounters, making gorilla-based tourism a source of foreign currency and funding for community development projects such as schools and healthcare centres.

“Gorilla trekking accounted for 14 per cent of the $498 million Rwanda earned from tourism in 2018, when the government doubled the cost of gorilla-trekking permits to $1,500 per person. In 2018–19, tourism brought in $1.6 billion USD for Uganda, contributing 7.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employing at least 667,000 people.

 “If wildlife can be successfully protected in Nigeria it can become a major driver of increased tourism and jobs.”

Wild Africa Fund has launched a month-long public awareness campaign using radio, TV, newspapers, billboards, and social media to inform people about the threats facing the Cross Rivers gorillas and to amplify wildlife laws and anti-poaching measures that protect them.

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