28 February 2012 - CMS Agreements Officer, Melanie
Virtue participated last week in the Cross River Gorilla
strategic planning workshop, in Limbe, Cameroon.
Nigerian and Cameroon government officials
met - together with WCS and other international and local
NGOs, USFWS, GIZ, UNEP-CMS and UNEP GRASP - near Limbe from
22 – 24 February, 2012. The group reviewed progress
on the conservation of the critically endangered Cross River
Gorilla, and developed the elements for a new five-year
action plan to protect the approximately 250 remaining specimens
of the sub-species which is found only in the border region
between Cameroon and Nigeria.
“Only God knows why he put the Cross
River Gorilla on the borders of Nigeria and Cameroon, but
now we are condemned to work together to ensure their survival”.
Phillip Tabi Tako Eta, Director of Wildlife and Protected
Areas, Cameroon, reiterated the Nigerian President, Goodluck
Jonathan’s words in his opening address to the gathering
(pictured here on the right with Fidelis Omeni, CITES, CMS
and GRASP focal point at the Nigerian Environment Ministry).
The Cross River Gorillas inhabit rugged
and mountainous terrain consisting of steep peaks, surrounded
by lower lying areas with many villages. After years of
being hunted, the gorillas inhabit only the most inaccessible
areas. Despite increasing surveillance, these most elusive
of all apes are very seldom seen. Evidence of their presence
must be deduced from secondary signs, such as presence of
dung or night nests.
At the heart of the conservation strategy
are two key initiatives: Gorilla Guardians and Transboundary
cooperation. Gorilla Guardians are villagers empowered to
inform their peers about the mysterious gorillas and the
threats they face, and encourage local people to change
their behaviour to reduce these threats. Transboundary cooperation,
which will result in a formal MOU between the two countries,
operates at the local and national levels, involving ministry
personnel, as well as law enforcement agencies.
CMS, in partnership with UNEP GRASP, is
supporting both of these activities, in addition to having
partially funded the workshop itself. Organized by The Wildlife
Conservation Society, the workshop was held under the auspices
of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group, which will publish
the resulting plan.
Once finalized, this plan will become the
official Action Plan of the CMS Gorilla Agreement, as agreed
at its second Meeting of the Parties, in November 2011.