Why is CERCOPAN’s work vital?
CERCOPAN is a conservation charity operating in Cross River State, South-eastern Nigeria, the location of the oldest and most biodiverse rainforests in Africa. Over 60% of the country’s endangered plant and animal species occur here. This includes 132 tree species listed by the World Conservation Monitoring Centre as globally threatened. It is also a centre of endemism for birds and amphibians, and harbours the highest density of butterfly species (>1,000) in Africa. Most importantly for our work, Cross River has the highest diversity of primates (18 species) recorded anywhere in Africa, including the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla, and the most endangered of the chimpanzee subspecies.
However, this biodiversity jewel is under the most severe of threats. Nigeria has the world’s highest rate of deforestation of primary forests. According to FAO, Nigeria lost 56% of its remaining forest between 2000-2005, and current deforestation is proceeding at more than 3% per year. If environmental degradation in Nigeria continues at this pace, the consequences will be disastrous for its unique wildlife. Approximately 70% of rainforest community inhabitants are entirely reliant on the forest for their livelihoods, food, shelter and medicines, and the threat to their future is no less than for wildlife. With the majority earning less than $300 a year, through slash and burn farming and logging they are destroying the very forests on which their lives depend, often unaware of the disastrous consequences, or the fact that there are alternatives.
Unless strategies are put in place to educate the public on the importance and advantages of conservation, build the capacity of those charged with protecting the environment and find financially viable alternatives to forest exploitation, the survival potential of the Cross River State rainforest in the next thirty years is very low. If action is not taken and the forests are lost, previously self-sufficient people will migrate to urban areas looking for work, squatter communities will multiply, and poverty, disease and hunger will soar. The State will not only have lost a huge irreplaceable biological treasure, but will also be facing a humanitarian crisis.
With our expertise in environmental conservation, specialisation in primates, and proven track record, we are among those leading the effort to ensure that the forests of Cross River are conserved into the future for its people and its primates.