Winner of the Whitley Award donated by the Garfield Weston Foundation
Home to the Critically Endangered Cross River gorilla and Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, the tropical montane forests of southeastern Nigeria are among the most biodiverse in Africa. Located within this unique region are the Mbe Mountains, which lie close to the border with Cameroon. Rising to heights of 900 metres, they provide a critical link between two protected areas, and connect three increasingly isolated populations of Cross River gorillas. Maintaining this habitat corridor is therefore essential for the long-term survival of the species in Nigeria.
Despite recognition as an important site for biodiversity, the Mbe Mountains lack legal protection. With the growing human population, increasing deforestation for subsistence agriculture, and hunting to supply the illegal bushmeat trade, Cross River gorillas face an uncertain future.
Inaoyom Imong is Director of the Cross River Gorilla Landscape Project at the Wildlife Conservation Society in Nigeria. Working directly with nine local communities, his project has established a Community Conservation Association that manages a core area at the heart of the Mbe Mountains. By providing training and technical support, Inaoyom is enabling the active involvement of local communities in conservation, and giving people a sense of ownership over the protection of the forest and its great apes.
Inaoyom’s project aims to:
- Build capacity for community management of the Mbe Mountains, and secure its legal status as a community wildlife sanctuary.
- Train teams of eco-guards to improve the protection and monitoring of Cross River gorillas.
- Develop sustainable alternative livelihoods such as bee-keeping and ecotourism to reduce pressure on the forest.
- Increase local awareness about the status of Cross River gorillas and other threatened species.
Why it matters:
- The Cross River gorilla is the most threatened ape in Africa, with just 300 individuals remaining.
- Over 900,000 reptiles, birds and mammals are sold each year for bushmeat in the Nigeria-Cameroon border region.
- The project will act as a model for replication elsewhere in Nigeria.
“There has been no hunting of gorillas in the Mbe Mountains since inception of the project.”