The beautiful Cross River Gorilla – less than 300 left alive
The Cross River Gorilla is a subspecies of the western gorilla. With only a few hundred individuals remaining, it is in very real danger of becoming extinct unless it is properly cared for.
It was named a new species only in 1904 by Paul Matschie, a mammalian taxonomist working at the Humboldt University Zoological Museum in Berlin, but its populations were not systematically surveyed until 1987.
It is the most western and northern form of gorilla, and is restricted to the forested hills and mountains of the Cameroon-Nigeria border region at the headwaters of the Cross River (Nigeria).
Estimates from 2014 suggest that fewer than 250 mature Cross River gorillas remain, making them the world’s rarest great ape.
(Baby Cross River Gorilla)
The Cross River region
The Cross River region has been named as a biodiversity hotspot that is a region with a high levels of species including amphibians, butterflies, fish and small mammals. There are 34 of these hotspots, according to Conservation International, covering just 2.3% of the world’s land surface, but housing more than 50% of all terrestrial plant and animal biodiversity, including all 25 of the most endangered primate.
The main goal of The Great Apes Conservation Program is to provide long term security to the populations of the Cross River gorillas and Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees and their habitats located through research and the implementation of a community based management strategy.
(Great Ape Conservation)
A personal story as told by Dennis Punches
Nyango is the only Cross River gorilla in captivity in the world, and is seen as the ambassador for her critically endangered species. The Punches family rescued her and brought her to their home in Cameroon 20 years ago.
“There, tied to a veranda support, was a two and a half year old female gorilla. They called her Rambo. I reached down and she climbed into my arms. I could feel shotgun pellets under the skin of her scalp, a clear clue as to the demise of her mother. The “owner” claimed he was not the hunter, just a local “trader”. I knew that if I didn’t get her out of there she would soon end up in a cooking pot.”
“I saw in her eyes the same depth and mystery I saw in the eyes of the old man helping us in our linguistic research. He was called “Sango” which meant father or teacher in the Duala language. I immediately renamed her “Nyango”, the Duala word for mother”.
Nyango is twenty years old now and presides as the matriarch of the Limbe Wildlife Center. She is the only Cross River Gorilla in captivity.
“We were blessed to be a part of her life. Yet, for all of the intrigue, I hope for the sake of the species and for the sake of each precious individual living free and wild she remains exactly that … forever the one and only”.
(Volunteer at Limbe Wildlife Centre)
- Dennis Punches