2009 is definitely the year of the gorilla at La Palmyre Zoo. After the opening of its new apes exhibit in spring, followed by the birth of a delightful baby gorilla at the end of June, the zoo started its Year of the Gorilla photo contest in early summer. Visitors were invited to send in photos for the contest and donated 5€ per photo entered in the competition. Participants had the opportunity to compete in 2 different categories (gorilla pictures taken in zoos or in the wild). Results and winning pictures can be found on the zoo’s website.
Also, an information stand located just in front of the new ape enclosure offered a variety of information as well as selling different gorilla products such as T-shirts, cuddly toys, wooden gorillas from Rwanda, posters, postcards, newspapers for kids etc… Finally, a giant gorilla moneybox collected more than 2,000 euros!
Visitors showed a clear interest for gorilla conservation issues. Several large panels installed near the stand allowed people to inform themselves about the Year of the Gorilla campaign, as well as learn more about the gorilla subspecies, the threats they face in the wild and the different ways of becoming active for their protection.
In all, La Palmyre zoo, amember of YoG-partner WAZA, collected €13.000. The money will be used to support community-based anti-poaching activities in the Mbe Mountains of Nigeria and Cameroon, helping conserve the last remaining Cross River Gorillas.
Background information on the supported projects
With only 250-300 individuals remaining, the critically endangered Cross River gorilla is the most threatened taxon of ape in Africa. They are found only in a small mountainous area straddling the border between Cameroon and Nigeria, where hunting has reduced the population to perilously low levels. They survive only in the most rugged areas, protected by their own adaptability and by the relative inaccessibility of the region and/or where local communities have strong local beliefs favoring their protection.
As the human population continues to grow, and as development has led to new road building and an increased demand for farmland and forest produce (including bushmeat), the gorillas’ status has deteriorated further. To conserve them, it is of particular importance to involve local communities. Funds provided by La Palmyre Zoo will be used exclusively for community-led activities in Nigeria and Cameroon.
“Support for community-based anti-poaching in the Mbe Mountains, Nigeria”
Project Manager: Andrew Dunn, Wildlife Conservation Society
Rising to heights of 900 meters the Mbe Mountains function as a critical link in the forest landscape between the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary to the west and the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park to the east. Surrounded by nine communities with an estimated population of approximately 11,000-12,000 people the Mbe Mountains are also an important local watershed. For many years, the local communities surrounding the mountain resisted efforts by the federal government to have their land annexed as part of Cross River National Park.
WCS has been supporting gorilla monitoring in the Mbe Mountains since 2002 but it soon became apparent that direct conservation intervention was necessary to safeguard the gorillas. In 2005 a small team of nine eco-guards from surrounding villages was recruited to help protect the area. These guards are based at two simple camps high on the slopes of the mountain from where they patrol the area on a daily basis, collecting data on gorilla nest sites and feeding trails. By reinforcing existing community rules and regulations regarding wildlife management on the mountain, their presence also deters poaching.
“Support to the Gorilla Guardian community-based protection and monitoring network in Cameroon”
Project Manager: Aaron Nicholas, Wildlife Conservation Society
The situation in Cameroon is somewhat different to that in Nigeria because Cross River gorillas occupy a number of sites which are found outside of established protected areas. While a major focus for conservationists and government is the creation and improved management of protected areas within the Cross River gorilla range in Cameroon, the availability of resources and political will to formally protect all Cross River gorilla sites does not exist at present.
The ‘Gorilla Guardian’ community-based protection and monitoring network was established in 2008 in collaboration with traditional authorities in 6 remote villages in Cameroon (Ashunda, Bachama, Mbu, Nga, Takpe and Awuri). Each of these communities claims traditional ownership rights to nearby unprotected forest areas where important groups of Cross River gorillas are known to occur. The guardians have a remit of working with their communities (and especially local hunters) to promote the conservation of the Cross River gorilla, encourage respect for wildlife laws and to start collecting basic monitoring information related to the gorillas in their area.