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Critically Endangered Cross River Gorilla Killed In Pinyin 

By Azore Opio — A community of Pinyin people in Santa Subdivision, Northwest Region, March 1, 2013, reportedly killed an over 40-year-old Silver-back Cross River gorilla in cold blood.

The Silver-back dead in its own pool of blood

The critically endangered Cross River species had reportedly strayed from the proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in the Lebialem Highlands in the Southwest Region. The locals allegedly used some 45 cartridges to shoot the gorilla, and went on to finish the ape with several blows delivered with clubs and stones, leaving the animal in a pool of its own blood, says a communiqué released by the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF).

According to the release, ERuDeF wildlife expert, Neba Bedes, dispatched to the scene on March 5, discovered that the Silver-back was killed following the orders of the Chief of Gendarmerie Brigade based in Pinyin in the name of “self-defense” without conducting the necessary checks to ensure that this critically endangered animal was not a security threat to the local people.

A local teacher going to her farm early in the morning of March 1 had reported the presence of the gorilla about 1km away from the village. According to the ERuDeF press release, the death of this critically endangered Cross River gorilla remains a huge loss to the conservation world, given that the ape is Africa’s rarest and most threatened primate and one of the world’s 25 most threatened wildlife species.

Only about 300 of them live in the world between the Nigeria-Cameroon border region. The Northwest Regional Delegate for Forestry and Wildlife, Grace Mbah, regretted the loss of this totally protected human cousin and re-iterated the efforts of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife to increase the community sensitization in the border areas of the Proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary found in the Northwest.

The Southwest Region Chief of Service in charge of Wildlife and Protected Areas, Emmanuel Eboule, equally regretted the reckless killing of the Cross River gorilla and said that Government through the Ministry of Forestry would take appropriate measures to see that this kind of incident does not repeat itself. In 2004, ERuDeF scientists discovered a new sub-population of the Cross River gorilla in the now Proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.

Since 2010, the Government of Cameroon through the technical assistance from ERuDeF has been working to complete the creation of the sanctuary, which is home to about 40 Cross River gorillas and over 150 Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees as well as a range of other endangered species of flora and fauna. Only a small number of Cross River gorillas have been sighted in Tofala with the most recent sighting on February 24, 2013, by the Divisional Officer for Wabane Subdivision, Innocent Moni, in the Besali forest while on his way to Menji.

The presence of this gorilla about 33 km away from Tofala is good proof that the Tofala gorillas are not isolated and still maintain a genetic gene flow with the other gorilla sub-populations in the Takamanda forest area in Manyu Division. The recent killing of the Silver-back gorilla in Pinyin highlights the plight of this elusive wildlife species, affirming that there is no hope for them out of formally protected areas.

The migration of the killed ape is also testimony of the intense human pressure, compounded by very high forest conversion to farms as well as poaching that the gorillas in the Tofala forest are facing. ERuDeF and its partners are thus urging the Cameroon Government to speed up the process to complete the creation of the Proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and the other proposed sites in the Lebialem Highlands Conservation Complex.

First published in the Post print edition no 01419

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