Vocalizations of Silverback Cross River Gorilla heard in Tofala

A series of vocalizations of a Silver-back Cross River Gorilla have been heard in the Proposed Tofala Hill wildlife Sanctuary, Lebialem Highlands, SW Cameroon. The noise was heard on April 24, 2013 at about 10 a.m by a group of biomonitors working for the Cameroon-based Conservation organization, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF). According to one of the Conservation researchers, the vocalizations of a silverback communicates direction to the rest of the group since the male Gorilla is the leader of the group. The implication of these vocalizations is that he was leading a group in the forest. Even though the researchers did not get to see these animals, it was very interesting to know that despite the high threat faced by these animals such as hunting and the conversion of their habitat into farmlands, these shy and cryptic beasts still go about their daily life. The sound was heard in a misty, closed canopy and steep terrain of the Tofala forest during a bio-monitoring trip with a Finnish volunteer Hanna Maija. Filled with excitement of hearing the critically endangered Cross River gorilla just about 15m away, the team of researchers with the Volunteer all decided by sign language it was time to have the Gorillas on video. They got their cameras set on video mode and got ready for action. As they waited, the area grew mistier thereby reducing the chances of having a good video. The team moved to an advantaged position and waited there. Ten minutes later the barking was heard again and this time just about 10 metres away in a tree canopy. The sounds of the Gorillas movement in the trees could be heard but it was difficult to catch a glimpse of the activity they were doing given that the mist was so thick. The rugged terrain made it even more difficult. After waiting for over 45 minutes, when the mist cleared off, the researchers only realized that the gorillas had walked away.

It is worth noting that the area where the sounds of the Gorilla were heard is in the proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, an area which hosts about 40 of these Gorillas and about 150 endangered Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees. Unfortunately, for the past years, human pressure in the form of hunting and the conversion of the Gorillas habitat to farmland has put the lives of these precious apes under threat of extinction. It was for this reason that ERuDeF stepped in to help the Cameroon government conserve these animals by launching the creation process for the proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in 2010. It is hoped that when this area becomes a full protected area, the lives of these animals would be safe.

By Asoh Bedwin

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