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The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee Pan troglodytes ellioti, is restricted to Nigeria and SW Cameroon. Also known as Elliot’s chimpanzee it is the most endangered of four currently recognized subspecies of chimpanzee. In Nigeria the chimpanzee is found in the large forests blocks of Cross River State including Cross River National Park, the Mbe Mountains and Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. Small groups of chimpanzees still occur in the remaining forest fragments of south-western Nigeria and the Niger Delta although these small and isolated populations are at increased risk of extinction from disease and other unpredictable events. The main stronghold for chimpanzees in Nigeria is in the gallery forests and habitat mosaic of Gashaka Gumti National Park in Taraba State where it is estimated that perhaps 1,000 chimpanzees survive. Estimates of the total chimpanzee population in Nigeria range from 1,400 to 2,300 with similar numbers in SW Cameroon. Classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List.
As the human populations has increases across Nigeria and Cameroon, habitat destruction and hunting have driven the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee to extinction across much of its former range. Chimpanzees are mainly hunted with shotguns although they are also caught in wire snares to set terrestrial animals. Habitat loss occurs as a result of agriculture, logging, grazing and fire. The combination of hunting and habitat loss has fragmented the distribution of the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, many of the remaining populations are small and isolated, and at increased risk form disease and other unpredictable events.
Creation of Protected Areas WCS supported the creation of new protected areas including Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary (2000) and Takamanda National Park (2008).
Law Enforcement and Protected Area Management. There is little wildlife left in Nigeria today outside of protected areas, providing support to strengthen the management of these areas is the main focus of WCS in Nigeria. For unless we improve law enforcement within protected areas, and reduce levels of hunting, logging, livestock grazing and encroachment, wildlife will not survive in Nigeria.
Community Conservation. WCS fully recognizes that it is essential to involve local people in conservation efforts to save Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees. In the Mbe Mountains we are working with nine local communities to strengthen local land tenure and local livelihoods.
Conservation Education and Raising Levels of Awareness is an important aspect of our work which we do mainly through SMART-based ranger patrols. We are currently involved in a new project with the North Carolina Zoo and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany to assess the population of Cross River gorillas in Afi. We are also collaborating together on a study of disease risk and possible transmission between Cross River gorillas, humans and livestock.
Conservation education and raising levels of awareness within local communities is essential for long-term success and a vitally important part of our work. Our conservation education outreach program is based around school conservation clubs and includes regular field trips and exchange visits. Our outreach program also includes the highly popular weekly radio drama show My Gorilla My Community, and the use of wildlife film shows to spread conservation messages within the area.
Alternative livelihoods are promoted to reduce pressure on endangered species and the remaining forests. WCS provides training to boost local incomes and to reduce levels of dependence on the forest and on hunting. Our approach currently focuses on making existing cocoa farms more sustainable and reducing rates of forest loss in key corridor areas, as well as bee keeping, goat husbandry and the rearing of African giant snails. An important part of our approach involves working with women’s groups to improve the value of bush mango.