ERuDeF - Cross River Gorilla Conservation
|Project Location||Lebialem Highlands, Cameroon|
|Project Type||Wildlife and habitat conservation, Endangered species protection, Environmental education|
|Endangered Species||Cross River gorilla, chimpanzee, Preuss guenon, elephant|
|Land Area Protected||900 km2|
|Local People Employed||16|
ERuDef - Cross River Gorilla Conservation
The Environement and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) is a Cameroonian non-profit dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and protection of fragile environments through research, training, education and community engagement.
One of the world’s 25 most endangered species, the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) is on the verge of global extinction. The most critically endangered of all African primates, only 300 Cross River gorilla remain in the wild, spread across 11 fragmented localities within the Cameroonian and Nigerian border region. This is due mainly to human activities - habitat fragmentation, poaching, forest conversion to farmlands and general ignorance of forestry and wildlife legislation amongst local communities.
ERuDeF is now working collaboratively within the larger Great Apes Conservation Programme being implemented along the border of Nigeria and Cameroon by a number of partners including ERuDeF, Wildlife Conservation Society, Fauna & Flora International, the African Conservation Foundation, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, and the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon.
Cross River gorilla research in Cameroon began in 1996 in the Takamanda Forest Complex before expanding into the Lebialem forests. The research in the latter area led to the discovery of a new sub-population in 2004. The main goal of Cross River Gorilla Project is to conserve the Cross River gorilla through the permanent protection of their habitats and implementation of a participatory biodiversity management model.
The primary objective of the project is to ensure the long term conservation of Cross River gorillas by upgrading the protection status of their three vitally important habitats in the Lebialem Highlands to become full protected areas with effective and collaborative management.
The project is entirely located on traditional unprotected lands, which raises enormous challenges. Working with logging companies to help conserve gorillas located within their concessions, relocating people who farm inside the gorilla habitats, and providing local people with acceptable and viable alternative economic activities are just a couple of the challenges that the team strives to overcome. The project also conducts education activities in schools and communities through lectures and videos of gorilla conservation efforts in Cameroon and other countries.
Tusk has been supporting ERuDeF in their efforts to protect great apes in the Lebialem Highlands since 2007.
Tusk’s support has, for instance, enabled the purchase of a 4WD truck, allowing the project to rapidly expand its area of fieldwork and start investigations into the unexplored forest. This has resulted in the discovery of four new potential gorilla locations and the mapping of a migratory route linking the Lebialem gorillas with those of Takamanda Forest Complex. The status of the gorillas in this area is now being studied through the use of biological and socio-economic methods and is a very positive step forward in the conservation of this highly endangered species.
The team wakes up at 6am in the heart of the rainforest to sounds of chirping birds and singing monkeys. Breakfast is served and we set out hiking. Up and down the hills we go looking for apes. Spotting elephants as well as seeing signs of gorillas and chimpanzees, the team records data for research on these rare and elusive creatures. The work makes for a tiring day. At about 4-5pm we return to the camp exhausted but satisfied with our accomplishments and looking forward to another day in the rainforest of Cameroon.