Back to News

New Cross River gorilla sanctuary created

The Prime Minister of Cameroon has officially created a new sanctuary to offer extra protection to the Cross River gorilla

The Prime Minister of Cameroon has officially signed a decree to create a new sanctuary to offer extra protection to the Cross River gorilla, officially the world’s rarest ape.

As with lowland and mountain gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo, the Cross River gorilla has been pushed to the brink of extinction by poaching and habitat loss. The great ape is also threatened by the illegal bushmeat trade, with this perfect storm of threats meaning numbers have dropped to just a couple of hundred.

Under the new initiative, the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary will help protect the critically-endangered gorillas from poachers and hunters, while also safeguarding their natural habitat. It is also hoped that the sanctuary, which is located in the south-west of Cameroon, will help protect a number of other key species, including chimpanzees and elephants.

This will be the third such reserve in the country and represents a big step forward in attempts to save the Cross River gorilla from extinction. Despite ongoing conservation efforts, numbers have continued to plummet over recent years. In fact, following the violence that gripped Cameroon in the 1960s, researchers had feared that the species had been lost for good, with small populations only rediscovered in the 1980s.

The Cross River gorilla differs from other lowland gorillas in a number of ways. As well as the obvious physical differences, they are also less likely to climb trees, their diet is different and there have been more documented cases of them using tools. At the same time, however, they share a number of characteristics with their cousins to the east. For example, they also live in tight families, with groups making nests to sleep in and moving to a new location each day.

Sadly, the threats facing them have also become more pronounced over the past few years.  Just as in eastern and central Africa, where the Gorilla Organization works to protect lowland and mountain gorillas, the number of people living alongside the gorilla habitat has risen dramatically, placing extra pressure on the natural resources found in the forests.