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Rare Nigerian Gorillas Spotted with Babies is Proof That They are Mating again

Cross River gorillas as seen on June 22, 2020 in Nigeria's Mbe mountain | Image credit: AP

Cross River gorillas as seen on June 22, 2020 in Nigeria's Mbe mountain | Image credit: AP

Only around 300 Cross River gorillas were known to be alive at one point in the isolated mountainous region in Nigeria and Cameroon.

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Conservationists have captured the first images of a group of rare Cross River gorillas with multiple babies in Nigeria’s Mbe mountains, proof that the subspecies once feared to be extinct is reproducing amid protection efforts.

Only around 300 Cross River gorillas were known to be alive at one point in the isolated mountainous region in Nigeria and Cameroon, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which captured the camera trap images in May. More color images were recovered last month.

John Oates, professor emeritus at the City University of New York and a primatologist who helped establish conservation efforts for the gorillas more than two decades ago, was excited about the new images.

Conservationists have captured the first images of a group of rare Cross River gorillas with multiple babies in Nigeria’s Mbe mountains, proof that the subspecies once feared to be extinct is reproducing amid protection efforts.

Only around 300 Cross River gorillas were known to be alive at one point in the isolated mountainous region in Nigeria and Cameroon, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which captured the caThe gorillas are extremely shy of humans and their presence is detected mostly by their nests, dung and feeding trails, experts say.

A team of about 16 eco-guards have been recruited from surrounding communities to patrol and protect the gorillas and other wildlife, Dunn said.

Inaoyom Imong, director of WCS Nigeria’s Cross River Landscape project, said that seeing a few young gorillas in a group is promising.

The new photos were taken in a community forest without any formal protection status, Imong said, “an indication we can have strong community support in conservation.”

Hunting was always the main threat, he said, but “we do believe that hunting has reduced drastically.” The conservation groups also are working to reduce illegal cutting of forests, he said.

But other dangers remain.

“Although hunters no longer target gorillas, snares set for other game pose a threat to the gorillas as infants can be caught in them and potentially die from injuries,” Imong said. Disease is also a potential threat, along with conflict and insecurity in Cameroon.

“Refugees from the ongoing insecurity in Cameroon are also moving into the area, and they will likely increase hunting pressure and the need for more farmland,” Dunn said.

For now, they must rely on the work of Nigerian communities.

“I feel honored to be part of the efforts that are producing these results,” said Chief Damian Aria, the head of the village of Wula.

He told the AP his community and others have worked hard to help preserve the natural habitat for the gorillas, and they are proud of their efforts.

“We are so happy they are reproducing,” he said. While the gorillas’ livelihood is important for nature, Aria also hopes that mountain communities in due time will benefit from the tourism they might bring.

mera trap images in May. More color images were recovered last month.

John Oates, professor emeritus at the City University of New York and a primatologist who helped establish conservation efforts for the gorillas more than two decades ago, was excited about the new images.

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