Rare gorilla babies captured in camera in Nigeria

Rare gorilla babies captured in camera in Nigeria

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Dakar, Senegal: Conservationists have captured the first images of a group of rare cross river gorillas with several infants in the Mbe Mountains of Nigeria, evidence that once-extinction-prone subspecies reintroduced conservation efforts Are starting
According to the Wildlife Protection Society, only 300 cross river gorillas were believed to be alive at one point in isolated mountainous regions in Nigeria and Cameroon, which captured camera trap images in May. More colorful images were recovered last month.
John Oates, professor emeritus at New York University and a primatologist who helped set up conservation efforts for gorillas two decades ago, was excited about the new images.
“It is great to see that the gorillas present in these mountains are breeding successfully because there were very few pictures in the past,” he told the Associated Press.
“We know very little about what’s happening with breeding with this subspecies, so seeing many young animals is a positive sign.”
Experts do not know how many cross river gorillas remain in the mountain range and have been trying to track the subspecies for some time.
In 2012 around 50 cameras were placed and many images have been captured at the Kagwane Gorilla Sanctuary in Cameroon and in the forest and Afi Mountains Wildlife Sanctuary of the Mbe Mountains Community of Nigeria.
But capturing cross river gorillas on camera simultaneously is extremely difficult and no images have captured many infants.
The Mbe Mountains Conservation Association, a coalition of nine local communities, has been working with the Wildlife Conservation Society since the mid-1990s to help protect Cross River gorillas. Since that time, no deaths have been recorded in Nigeria, the society said.
According to Andrew Dunn, the director of the society’s Nigeria country, at one point the gorilla was thought to be extinct.
“This is a huge success story that shows communities can protect their wildlife,” he told AP.
Cross river gorillas have been a threat to hunting primarily for decades, but also as a loss of habitat as residents cut down forests to make way for agriculture.
The subspecies was “rediscovered” in the late 1980s. About 100 cross river gorillas have been recorded in the Cross River State of Nigeria and 200 in Cameroon in a transborder area of ‚Äč‚Äčabout 12,000 square kilometers (4,633 sq mi).
The Mbe Mountains forest is about one third of the population of Nigeria.
Gorillas are extremely shy from humans and their presence is mostly detected by their nests, dung and feeding nets.
Dunn said a team of about 16 eco-guards has been recruited from the surrounding communities to patrol and protect gorillas and other wildlife.
Inayaom Imong, director of WCS Nigeria’s Cross River Landscape Project, said it is promising to see some young gorillas in a group.
The new photos were taken without any formal security status in the community forest, Imong said, “a sign that we may have strong community support in conservation.”
Hunting was always the main threat, he said, “but we believe there has been a huge reduction in hunting.” He said that conservation groups are also working to reduce illegal felling of forests.
But other threats remain.
“Although hunters no longer target gorillas, snoring set for other games poses a threat to gorillas because infants can be caught in them and possibly die from injuries,” Imong said. Along with conflict and insecurity in Cameroon, the disease is also a potential threat.
“Refugees are also rising in the region from ongoing insecurity in Cameroon, and they will likely increase hunting pressure and the need to farm more,” Dunn said.
For now, they must rely on the work of Nigerian communities.
“I am honored to be a part of the results that are producing these results,” said Damian Aria, head of Vulla village.
He told AP that his community and others have worked hard to help preserve natural habitat for the gorillas, and are proud of their efforts.
“We are very happy that they are breeding,” he said. While the livelihood of the gorillas is important to nature, Aria is also hopeful that the hill communities will benefit from the tourism they bring in due time.

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