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04 April 2013

The Pinyin Cross River Gorilla saga and the need for more government law enforcement efforts

Posted in News, Views 1679

The Cameroonian conservation non-profit organization, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) has called on the government to re-inforce the human resource capacity in forest adjacent communities which host Gorillas or other endangered species. The President of ERuDeF, Louis Nkembi was speaking in Buea on the 21st of March, 2 013 shortly after a Press briefing which aimed at revealing the sad circumstances leading to the killing of a Cross River Gorilla. It would be recalled here that the Gorilla was on March 1st killed by the people of Pinyin in the Santa Sub Division, NW of Cameroon after straying from the proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in the Lebialem Highlands.

Louis Nkembi explained that the killing of the Gorilla was bad omen for the conservation world, given that it indicated that the fight against poaching, ignorance and people who do not yet understand the value of wildlife is still very far from being achieved. He went forth to say the Gorilla came from the Proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary hosting about 40 of these Gorillas. "The death of this Gorilla therefore means the population has decreased by one. The loss of just one of the great apes means a lot to the Cross River Gorilla population which numbers just about 300 of them in the wild". Louis Nkembi added.

The presence of this Silver-back was reported by a local teacher who was going to her farm very early in the morning on March 1st 2013 at about 4Km away from the village. It is alleged over 45 cartridges were used as well as several blows with clubs and stones on the Gorilla, leaving the Gorilla in a pool of his own blood.

The death of this Silver-back remains a very big loss not just to ERuDeF, but to the conservation world at large, given that this ape is Africa's rarest and most threatened primate and one of the world's 25 most threatened wildlife species. Only about 300 of them live in the world between the Nigeria-Cameroon border Region.

In 2004, a new sub population of the Cross River Gorillas was discovered by ERuDeF's scientists in the now proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary. Since 2010, the Government of Cameroon through the technical assistance of ERuDeF and its partners has been working to complete the creation of this very important Sanctuary, which is home to about 40 Cross River Gorillas and over 150 Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees and a range of other endangered species of fauna and flora.

Only a very small number of Cross River Gorillas have been sighted in Tofala. The most recent was on the 24th February, 2013 by the Divisional Officer for Wabane Sub Division, Innoncent Moni in Besali forest on his way to Menji. The presence of this killed Gorilla about 33km away from Tofala is a good proof to explain the fact that the Tofala Gorillas are not isolated and still maintain a genetic gene flow with the other Gorilla sub populations in the Takamanda forest area, as few Gorilla sightings have been recorded between Tofala and Takamanda forests.

The killing of this Silver-back in Pinyin provides a more glaring proof about the plight o f this elusive wildlife species, that there is no hope for them out of formal protected areas. The migration of this killed silver back is also a testimony of the intense human pressure that the Gorillas in the Tofala forests are facing. This pressure includes very high forest conversion to farms and poaching.

Louis Nkembi therefore used the Press briefing to call on the government to increase the amount of support given to anti poaching units in areas hosting these rare species. This he explains as most of such areas are enclaved and have limited government presence. He therefore urged the Ministry of Forestry and wildlife to deploy more officials to these areas to reduce poaching and other activities that might lead to the loss of the habitat.

By Regina Fonjia Leke