News

New Safe Havens Found for Cameroon’s Cross River Gorrillas

Fears of a looming extinction of the world’s rarest ape, the Cross River Gorilla, have been partially alleviated. American conservationists have discovered the existence of more suitable habitats for the primates than previously considered. As a result, the endangered primates residing along the Cameroon – Nigeria border have more chances of survival and expansion provided the new safe havens are adequately guarded and the killing of the gorillas halted.

The newly discovered habitats are found along a hilly and forested stretch of the border between Cameroon and Nigeria.  The remote area is already home to the only 300 surviving gorillas in Cross River, listed by conservationists as critically endangered.

Scientists from the North Carolina Zoo in the US and the World Conservation Society among others participated in the research.  They used satellite imaging techniques to take high-resolution photographs of the Cross River region from which the apes derive their name.

The pictures enabled the researchers to demarcate the distribution of forests and also map out other types of land cover in the area.  On the ground, field researchers trekked to over 400 control points to verify the accuracy of the satellite pictures.  In most cases, it exceeded 90 percent.

Using other environmental data including the presence and proximity of human activity, the researchers drew up maps of gorilla habitats. Their findings revealed that the apes currently have more shelter than previously estimated.  The scientists also found previously unknown passageways that enable the primates to move between habitats in search of mates.

Dr Richard Bergl is curator of conservation and research at the North Carolina Zoo. He’s been studying the Cross River Gorilla for over a decade.

"Our understanding of the gorilla," he said, "is based on research that’s only been going for about 20 years or so.  My research has used analyses of satellite imagery to try to answer some questions of conservation relevance – specifically looking at how the gorillas move across the landscape and also at the distribution of habitat; looking at how much forest is left and how it’s connected."

Over the years, the Cross River Gorilla population has been plummeting.  They reside in a region with a soaring number of people and use of forests, water and other natural resources.  As a result, their habitats are frequently destroyed, while poachers hunt them for meat.

Apart from the North Carolina Zoo, the World Conservation Society has been partnering with the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria to create sanctuaries for the Cross River Gorillas in the border region.

Aaron Nicolas, a researcher with the World Conservation Society, says the newly discovered habitats will shape future conservation plans to ensure a better future for the gorillas.

"The relationship between the World Conservation Society and the North Carolina Zoo is really exciting," he said. "It’s something that is developing and growing all the time.  We’re working very closely with Dr Richard Bergl and who’s answered a lot of key conservation questions for us which are helping us frame the actions that we’re putting in place in the field."

One such action is the development of the cyber-tracker, a handheld touchscreen device fitted with a GPS, or global positioning system antenna. It allows field workers to track the gorillas, entering data on their habitat which is automatically fed into a central system.  The collected data is used to protect habitats, monitor the habits of the apes that are particularly wary of humans as well as keep track of poaching activities.

Officials of the Cameroon's Ministry of Forests and Wildlife and of Cross River National Park in Nigeria say the trackers will help improve law enforcement and ease data collection and analysis.

Dr Bergl says it's good news for all animals that need protected habitats.

"What’s really key at the moment," he said, "is to build controlled hunting grounds and to hang on to the remaining gorilla habitat in order to allow the gorilla population to grow. By protecting the Cross River Gorilla and their habitat, he said, you’re not only saving gorillas, but all the other wildlife and all the forests out there for the future."

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs