Gorilla Guardians visit CERCOPAN

Gorilla Guardians at CERCOPANLast month we had the pleasure of meeting Jonathon Stark, Senior Ape Keeper at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and Rick Jones, Durrell’s Communications Officer. Rick and John are travelling in the footsteps of their founder, Gerald Durrell, who’s trip through Nigeria and Cameroon is recounted in his bestseller ‘The Bafut Beagles’.  They are using this visit to highlight the plight of the Cross River gorilla and the unsung ‘Gorilla Guardians’ that work to protect them.

Whilst CERCOPAN does not directly protect Gorilla habitat, we do serve to spread the message of conservation and protection for all primates in the state. Over 20,000 visitors a year come to our Calabar education centre and our children’s environmental outreach programme includes 70 Cross River schools. We also educate adults in the 4 rural communities surrounding our field site and conduct field courses for the two main universities within Calabar. Rick and John were very interested in this important work, so came to the office to have a chat and to film some of the primates we care for at our sanctuary.

The Cross River gorilla is the most endangered of all gorilla species and has a very limited range within the forest blocks stretching across the Nigeria/Cameroon border. Few people glimpse the remaining individuals in the wild as numbers have drastically reduced due to high hunting pressure. More often than not, peoples’ close up encounters with Cross River gorillas tend to be when they are dead and being sold for bushmeat. Continued hunting pressure combined with habitat loss have pushed the small populations deep into the remaining forest and the Gorilla Guardian team had a long trek ahead of them to find any evidence of their presence.

CERCOPAN was one of their first stops, as Cross River State was the beginning of Durrell’s journey, so we were lucky to meet them fresh-faced and energetic before the difficult journey to come. One of our putty-nosed guenon groups featured in the film, as did our Director, Colin Pringle. Hopefully the documentary will be released in the near future in the UK, and we can’t wait to see it. If you would like to know more about the Gorilla Guardian’s travels, you can keep up with their adventures by following them on facebook here.

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