Gorillas on Thin Ice

“Gorillas on Thin Ice” will take place at the 900 square-metre ice rink in the gardens of the Natural History Museum, South Kensington, London.

The Year of the Gorilla (YoG) is a joint initiative of the UNEP-CMS, the UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership (GRASP) and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA). CMS has 110 governments supporting as Parties.

Experts meeting in November 2008 under the new Gorilla Agreement, coordinated by UNEP-CMS adopted comprehensive national action plans to support the upcoming Year. Several projects to promote gorilla conservation align to tailored regional action plans and have been supported by the CMS Scientific Council. They focus on better protection of the Cross River Gorilla by strengthening the role of community-based conservation initiatives, the development of a broad-based outreach program and relevant research.

Numbering less than 300 remaining individuals, the Cross River Gorilla is Africa’s most endangered ape. It occurs across a 12,000km2 landscape along the Nigerian-Cameroon border. While most of the forest sites fall within the boundaries of Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries or Forest Reserves, affording them some level of protection, community-based protection is being promoted in the remaining sites. Therefore, a community Wildlife Sanctuary is currently being establishment in Nigeria and a gorilla guardian network is being implemented in Cameroon.

The survival prospects of Cross River Gorillas will be enhanced through the creation of Nigeria’s first community managed Wildlife Sanctuary and support a gorilla guardian monitoring network. A combined conservation and rural development approach will be promoted in the most vulnerable Cross River Gorilla sites in Cameroon.

Another project, which will be overseen by the Wildlife Conservation Society aims to promote education and conservation awareness among schools and communities in Cross River National Park in Nigeria and the contiguous Takamanda National Park in Cameroon. The main objective results in changed behaviour related to key threats faced by the Cross River gorillas such as habitat loss and hunting. Given the large number of people living around and also within Okwangwo-Takamanda, raising awareness about the value of conservation and the uniqueness of these gorillas will be a major component of a long-term conservation program. Education and awareness efforts in recent years have already contributed to a significant reduction of gorilla hunting. Under the action plan these efforts will be strengthened and expanded in the heart of the gorillas range.

A broad-based outreach program envisages the development of local radio programs, thematic conservation films and a transboundary education campaign targeted at local hunters. These media will target major conservation challenges such as river poisoning, over-hunting, lack of understanding of wildlife laws and bush burning.

A third project supports relevant research on the Cross River Gorillas, which remain one of the least well-known ape populations. A better understanding of the gorillas’ range, population structure and habitat preferences and the collection/generation of new data will allow for more effective management of the Cross River Gorilla and its habitat. Conducting population and distribution surveys will help to better map the extent of the species’ range and identity suitable new gorilla habitat. A feasibility study will determine whether carbon credit projects are suitable to fund Cross River Gorilla conservation and could have major implications for future conservation strategies.

More information about the event and to arrange interviews or photography please contact Sarah Nuttall, UK–Based UNEP-CMS Fund Raiser, on Tel: 01403 733 878 or 0790 20 11 734 or e-mail: sarahnuttall60@btinternet.com

For More Information on the Year of the Gorilla Please Contact Ms. Veronika Lenarz, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, on Tel: +49 (0)228 8152409 or +49-172 230 59 06 during the event, e-mail: vlenarz@cms.int

Ian Redmond, YOG Ambassador, Robert Hepworth, CMS Executive Secretary, and Justin Wateridge of A&K will be among those available for interview.

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