World's rarest ape captured on trail camera at Cross River Wildlife Conservancy

World's rarest ape captured on trail camera at Cross River Wildlife Conservancy

Postgraduate students from the University of Calabar have captured stunning footage of the Cross River gorilla, the world's rarest great ape, at Mount Afi Wildlife Conservancy.

The surprising trail camera sighting was the first to be photographed since graduate students began studying the elusive subspecies last year as part of the Cross River Gorilla Project. The two silverback gorillas were spotted in different parts of the reserve, one in the southern part and one in the northern part.

The reserve is in Boki Local Government Area of ​​Cross River State. Researchers are particularly excited about the capture in the north because the area is subject to high human activity. “The sighting is more than just a visual success,” said Adekanbi Adeyinka, a Master's student at the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Biology at the University of Calabar.

“This highlights the importance of community engagement and innovative research in conservation efforts. By working closely with the local community, we are not only collecting important data but also fostering a greater understanding and commitment to protecting this amazing ape and its habitat,” he added.

Two years ago, a five-year Community Conservation Graduate Scholarship Program for Cross River Gorilla Conservation, funded by the Calgary Zoo's Wilder Institute and implemented by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) in partnership with the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation Research (CBCR), was launched at the University of Calabar. The program includes support for graduate research projects in Nigeria, including scholarships for one PhD student and four Master's students from the University of Calabar.

This collaborative initiative will reach beyond borders and a partnership with the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation Research (CBCR) in Ghana will allow for an exchange programme for knowledge sharing on practices that lead to successful community conservation initiatives.

The scholarships have been awarded to the first batch of postgraduate students in early 2023, consisting of one PhD student and two Masters students from the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management, University of Calabar.

Dr Mary Liao, Conservation Manager at Wilder Institute, said: “When we hiked to Mount Afi Conservation Area we were excited with the hope that we might see Cross River gorillas in their natural habitat. While we may not have had a direct encounter, the images and videos captured by the camera traps are a fantastic glimpse into the lives of these elusive and magnificent creatures.”

“I was incredibly impressed with how Cole worked with local hunters and conservationists to strategically place traps, perfectly blending science with local knowledge and epitomizing the essence of holistic conservation.”

“As NCF, we are grateful to our partners, the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo, the Biodiversity Conservation Research Centre and the University of Calabar, for their generous support in this endeavor,” said Dr. Joseph Onoja, Executive Director of the NCF.

“The success of this effort highlights the importance of collaboration in addressing the challenges facing wildlife and their habitats and achieving sustainable wildlife conservation. We hope that this effort will also contribute to realizing the goal of our strategic pillar of rescuing species at risk of extinction.”

“Cole Adekanbi has found encouraging results that show the power of working together to save the critically endangered Cross River gorillas. The two silverback gorillas captured on a trail camera in Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary highlight the need for innovative technology, collaborative research and community engagement to protect this vulnerable species and its environment.”

“These findings highlight the important role protected areas play in gorilla conservation and the need for further research and collaboration to protect the Cross River gorillas and the rich biodiversity of the region,” said Professor Francis Bisson, Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Calabar and Executive Director of the Cross River Gorilla Conservation Project Advisory Committee. “We are confident that our graduate students will significantly improve our understanding and conservation efforts of this magnificent species. We urge the scientific community, conservation organizations and stakeholders at all levels to support and expand this important effort to protect one of the world's rarest and most vulnerable species.”


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