Nature is an incredible force to behold. Unfortunately, humans haven’t exactly respected it the way they should. As a result, there are many animal species that are facing extinction. The Cross River gorillas are estimated to only have between 200 and 300 left in the wild, meaning that they’re a critically endangered species. As it turns out, they are the most endangered of the gorilla subspecies. But there is a ray of hope.
Up in the mountains of southern Nigeria, a rare photo was taken that shows a group of these gorillas carrying some babies on their backs. This image is a huge deal as it gives conservationists hope for the future knowing that these gorillas are reproducing.
The international non-governmental organization, WCS Nigeria, pointed out that the photos were taken by tracking cameras in the Mbe mountains. The Cross River gorillas are hardly ever caught on camera, much less while caring for their young. That makes this picture quite a big deal, especially since there are several young gorillas in the shot.
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The director of WCS Nigeria’s Cross River Landscape, Inaoyom Imong, noted that it was quite an exciting moment, and revealed in a statement that seeing so many young Cross River gorillas was “an encouraging indication that these gorillas are now well protected and reproducing successfully, after previous decades of hunting.”
Imong further added that the gorillas in the area are no longer targeted by hunters, however, the threat of hunting still remains a concern to conservationists. Additionally, the director noted that the Cross River gorillas are by nature very shy and tend to avoid human interaction because of how they’ve been treated in the past by humans.
The Cross River gorilla is known to have very minor distinctions from other gorilla species like having smaller heads, longer arms, and lighter-colored hair. In order to find the Cross River gorillas, one would have to be looking out for signs of gorilla activity such as nests, excrement, and feeding trails. The Cross River gorillas tend to be found through the mountainous, forested regions between the Cross River in Nigeria and Takmanda-Mone Cameroon.
The lead author of the first Cross River gorilla action plan in 2007, Professor John Oates, stated that it was an incredible thing to see so many young Cross River gorillas in the Mbe Mountains – especially since it points towards very good health amongst the gorillas. Oates continued to explain the history of conservation, ever since the early 1970s when the gorillas were believed to be extinct in Nigeria. When it turned out that they weren’t, conservation work began – first initiated by the Cross River State Government, then supported and taken on by the WCS and local communities. All this has meant that there is still a ray of hope for their longterm survival.
In hopes of conservation, the WCS is continuing its work across Nigeria to save the Cross River gorillas by educating local communities about what they can do to help save the great ape.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.