The tropical rainforests of Cross River State in Okwangwo, Nigeria are recognised as a biological hotspot of global significance, supporting over 60% of Nigeria’s endangered plants and animals and numerous endangered primates most notably the Cross River gorilla. The Cross River gorilla is only found along the southern section of the Nigeria-Cameroon border and there are thought to be less than 300 individuals left. Logging, farming, and hunting are the major threats to the gorillas in the area.
A gorilla in the forest
The Okwangwo Conservation Society aims to reduce threats faced by gorillas by training 40 hunters in snail farming and beekeeping, thereby creating alternative sources of food and income, and reducing fires and habitat destruction which often result from wild honey collection. The project will also facilitate conservation education and establish 40,000 seedlings of Bushmango and afang, important non timber forest products currently unsustainably harvested from the forest and important for household income. Ecotourism will strengthen the protection and integrity of resources which tourists will pay to see.
This project has carried out a series of meetings with the Authority of Cross River National Park, the State Tourism Bureauand forest communities. 20 hunters have been trained in beekeeping and bee hives for honey production have been constructed to generate alternative incomes for their households. Gorilla Posters and stickers have been produced and distributed as conservation education awareness materials during school visits and village meetings. 20,000 bush mango seedlings have been purchased and nurseries established. These seedlings were distributed to 30 woment who have sold on 500 seedlings each to villagers and used the rest to establish their own farms. Finally 24 unemployed young people have received training in guiding and customer service skills for domestic and international tourists and researchers.
Update November 2017:
Following an initial series of meetings with local authorities and government organisations, TOCS has trained 33 hunters in bee keeping and provided 330 bee hives for honey production and to provide alternative sources of income.
37,470 seedlings of bush mango have been planted out by 58 women in 4 locations, to reduce pressure on dwindling resources and disturbance of gorilla habitats. 24 young people have been trained in guiding skills for eco tourism and 29 local schools and 36 forest communities in the Okwango District of the Cross River National Park have been visited to create awareness of the gorillas and the importance of their habitats.
The project initially found it hard to select the participants as, having worked successfully on alternative livelihood programmes in the area previously, many more people wanted to get involved that they have room for. Following meetings with local communities to help them understand the importance of the project, the communities themselves selected those that were to be involved. Communities also helped moving materials for the projects to the more remote project sites, with local people actively being involved in planning, decision making and implementation.
"On behalf of the Okwango Conservation Society, may I thank EOCA for the their support. The funds not only helped save the critically endangered Cross River gorilla but also contributed greatly in reducing conflict between forest communities and Cross River National Park over forest resource collection by forest dewellers"
. Louis Nkoyu, Project Manager
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