A Tofala Cross River Gorilla Silver-back killed in Pinyin, NW Cameroon. A call for Action!

The Cameroonian Conservation Non-Profit, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation, (ERuDeF) announces the disappointing killing on March 1st, of a Silver-back Cross River Gorilla en provenance from the Proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in the Lebialem Highlands, SW Cameroon. The killing of this over 40-year silver-back was carried out by a well intentioned Pinyin community in Santa Sub Division of NW Cameroon. According to Neba Bedes, ERuDeF’s Wildlife expert dispatched to the scene on 5th March 2013, the Silver-back killing was ordered by the Chief of Gendarmerie Brigade(local government security) based in Pinyin in the name of “self-defense” without conducting the necessary security checks to ensure that this critically endangered animal is not causing any security dangers to the local people.

The presence of this Silver-back was reported by a local teacher who was going to her farm very early in the morning on March 1st 2013 at about 1Km away from the village. It is alleged over 45 cartridges were used as well as several blows with clubs and stones on the Gorilla, leaving the Gorilla in a pool of his own blood.

The death of this Silver-back remains a very big loss not just to ERuDeF, but to the conservation world at large, given that this 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.

Earlier on, the Regional Delegate for Forestry and Wildlife for the North West Region, Mbah Grace regretted the loss of this totally protected human cousin and re-iterated the efforts of her ministry to increase the community sensitization in the border areas of the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary based in the NW Region.

In 2004, a new sub population of the Cross River Gorillas was discovered by ERuDeF’s scientists in the now proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary. Since 2010, the Government of Cameroon through the technical assistance of ERuDeF has been working to complete the creation of this very important Sanctuary, which is home to about 40 Cross River Gorillas and over 150 Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees and a range of other endangered species of fauna and flora.

Only a very small number of Cross River Gorillas have been sighted in Tofala. The most recent was on the 24th February, 2013 by the Divisional Officer for Wabane Sub Division in Besali forest on his way to Menji. The presence of this Gorilla about 33km away from Tofala is a good proof to explain the fact 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, as few Gorilla sightings have been recorded between Tofala and Takamanda forests.

The killing of this Silver-back in Pinyin provides a more glaring proof about the plight o f this elusive wildlife species, that there is no hope for them out of formal protected areas. The migration of this killed silver back is also a testimony of the intense human pressure that the Gorillas in the Tofala forests are facing. This pressure includes very high forest conversion to farms and poaching.

ERuDeF and its partners are thus urging the Government of Cameroon to speed up the Process to complete the creation of the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and the other proposed sites in the Lebialem Highlands Conservation Complex. Otherwise, the world might just be bidding farewell to the last 60 Gorillas and over 400 Chimpanzees living in the forest of the Lebialem Highlands and its corridors.The Skull of this Silver back should be retrieved by the authorities of the North West Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife for Conservation and scientific reasons.

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