For the first time ever, a group of rare gorillas on the brink of extinction have been photographed carrying their babies.
In the photos, released yesterday by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the group of Cross River gorillas can be seen with a number of infants in the mountains of southern Nigeria.
Only between 200 and 300 Cross River gorillas are known to live in the wild, making them critically endangered. In fact, they are the most endangered gorilla sub-species, so these new images provide hope to conservationists that the animals are reproducing.
WCS Nigeria, an international non-governmental organisation, said the pictures were captured by camera traps in the Mbe mountains. Because they are so rare Cross River gorillas are rarely seen, let alone photographed, especially with their children.
Yet a number of infant gorillas are visible in these new shots, which were taken earlier this year, with this being the first time that multiple infants have been recorded or captured in the same group.
Inaoyom Imong, Director of WCS Nigeria’s Cross River Landscape said in a statement it is ‘extremely exciting’ to see so many young Cross River gorillas, adding: ‘[It is] an encouraging indication that these gorillas are now well protected and reproducing successfully, after previous decades of hunting.’
The director continued:
While hunters in the region may no longer target gorillas, the threat of hunting remains, and we need to continue to improve the effectiveness of our protection efforts.
The world’s rarest great ape, the Cross River gorilla is naturally wary of humans ‘due to a long history of persecution’ and has subtle distinctions from other species – such as smaller heads, longer arms and lighter-coloured hair.
Their presence can be detected mainly through indirect signs such as nests, excrement and feeding trails, and they tend to be distributed patchily over a mountainous, forested landscape spanning 12,000 square kilometres across the transboundary region of Cross River Nigeria and Takmanda-Mone Cameroon.
Professor John Oates, lead author of the first Cross River gorilla action plan in 2007, said:
It is wonderful to see images of gorillas from the Mbe Mountains that show so many young animals, indicating that the population there is in good health.
Back in the early 1970s it was widely thought that gorillas were extinct in Nigeria, but work subsequently initiated by the Cross River State Government, and later supported and expanded by WCS and local communities, has clearly held the line and given hope for the long-term survival of these primates.
WCS continues to work to protect the great apes at sites across Nigeria, working with local communities to provide continued effective protection for the gorillas.
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Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
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