Sep. 18, 2003 Durban, South Africa (Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2003) -- The Ministers of the environment from Nigeria and Cameroon have established an agreement to protect the Cross River gorilla, the world's rarest subspecies of gorilla that totals a mere 280 individuals throughout its entire range, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The Cross River gorilla is only found in Cross River State, Nigeria and western Cameroon and is highly threatened from poaching and habitat fragmentation and loss.
The two countries--represented by Cameroon's Minister of Environment and Forestry Chief Tanyi-Mbianyor Clarkson and Nigeria's Federal Minister of Environment Col. Bala Mande (Retired)--signed the agreement that will pave the way for a transboundary protected area, in effect combining the Takamanda-Okwangwo complex.
"This is a major conservation victory for Africa's rarest great ape, as well as an example of the spirit of transboundary collaboration that has since emerged from Durban," said David Hoyle, WCS conservationist for Cameroon and a delegate at the World Parks Congress. "This is an avenue to diffuse tensions and bring the two countries closer together. This is a major political success."
The agreement marked the conclusion of a workshop hosted by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Cameroon Ministry of Environment and Forestry in late August in Limbe, Cameroon, convened to review the status of the Cross River gorilla and identify conservation priorities. This great ape was only recently designated as a distinct subspecies of gorilla through genetic studies conducted by WCS researcher Dr. John Oates and others.
The group of conservation stakeholders from both countries under their respective government protected area leaders (Conservator General Alhaji Lawan Marguba of Nigeria and Director of Wildlife Mr. Denis K Koulagna of Cameroon) held four days of technical meetings to deliberate on the threats to the Cross River gorilla and to formulate a strategic action plan. The plan contains a number of measures that will conserve gorillas and their habitat, such as the revision of land-use practices in areas needed by both gorillas and people, the establishment of corridors, evaluating the impact of major new roads in the area, and increased protection and enforcement.
Another major success towards saving the Cross River gorilla was the formation of a collaborative partnership between the relevant government departments, WCS, Flora and Fauna International (FFI), the German Technical Corporation (GTZ) and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF). WCS has been working in the region for several years researching the Cross River gorilla, while promoting conservation awareness and supporting government partners on law enforcement efforts.
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