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June 18, 2024

18 JUNE 2024 (Calgary, AB) – Trail cameras in the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary have captured stunning footage of the world’s rarest great ape – the Cross River gorilla. The extraordinary sightings mark the first successful photos since three graduate students at the University of Calabar in Nigeria began studying this elusive subspecies last year as part of the Cross River Gorilla initiative.

“Trekking into the Afi Mountain Sanctuary, I was filled with excitement at the prospect of seeing a Cross River gorilla in its natural habitat. While I may not have encountered one face-to-face, the images and videos captured by the trail cameras are an incredible glimpse into the life of these elusive and magnificent primates,” said Dr. Mary Liao, Conservation Program Manager at the Wilder Institute. “I am incredibly impressed by Adekambi Cole Adeyinka for his collaboration with local hunters and eco-guards to strategically place the cameras, showcasing a perfect blend of scientific and community knowledge and embodying the essence of inclusive conservation.”

The two Silverback (mature male) gorillas were spotted in different parts of the sanctuary: one in the southern portion of the sanctuary and one in the northern portion. Researchers were particularly excited about the capture at the northern portion due to the higher level of human activity in that area.

“This sighting is more than just a visual success,” Adekambi Cole Adeyinka, M.Sc student from the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (University of Calabar) said. “It underscores the Sanctuary’s importance as a habitat for these gorillas and highlights the effectiveness of trail cameras in monitoring their populations.”

Dr. Joseph Daniel Onoja, Director of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, shared his enthusiasm, stating, “I am super excited about the development of this project. The recent capture of the Cross River gorilla through the trail camera is a product of well-focused research effort and a synergy among many partners. We are confident that more cheering news will come out of this project.”

Professor Francis E. Bisong, University of Calabar Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Secretary of the Cross River Gorilla Conservation Project Advisory Committee (PAC), echoed Dr. Onoja’s sentiments. He added, “These findings highlight the sanctuary’s vital role and the need for more research and collaboration to conserve the Cross River gorilla and the region’s rich biodiversity. I am convinced that our graduate students will greatly improve our understanding and protection efforts for this amazing species.”

About Cross River Gorillas
The Cross River gorilla is a subspecies of the western gorilla and was classified as a new species in 1904. Its critical status remained largely overlooked until population surveys commenced in 1987. Historically subjected to hunting and facing threats of habitat loss, these critically endangered great apes now inhabit only 11 fragmented regions within the mountainous rainforests of Nigeria and Cameroon. Fewer than 250 mature individuals were estimated to remain in the wild as of 2014. Every new sighting provides vital data and hope for the species’ survival.

About the Cross River Gorilla initiative
The Cross River Gorilla initiative, launched in 2022, aims to bridge the gap between conservation efforts and community engagement. Led by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) and the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation Research (CBCR) with funding from the Wilder Institute, the program equips Nigerian graduate students with the skills and knowledge necessary to lead future conservation efforts. Through structured studies, workshops, training, and internships, participants receive a comprehensive learning experience, actively engaging and sharing information with forest communities fostering their support and involvement in the protection of the Cross River gorilla and its habitat.

Learn more about this collaborative conservation program at: https://wilderinstitute.org/conservation/cross-river-gorilla-initiative/

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For more information contact:
Alison Archambault
Director, Brand & Engagement
403.232.7766 | 403.919.9482 | mediarelations@wilderinstitute.org

The Wilder Institute is a global authority on wildlife conservation, reintroducing threatened species to the wild and empowering communities to conserve their own natural resources to positively impact both nature and communities. The staff and volunteers of Wilder Institute are passionate about restoring balance to wildlife and human life, together. Using innovative science, our team is working to save threatened and endangered species and return them to the wild, where our planet needs them to be. We proudly operate the Archibald Biodiversity Centre, Canada’s largest conservation breeding and research facility. Our conservation expertise is in conservation breeding and community conservation, where we collaborate with community members to positively impact both nature and local communities. Learn more at WilderInstitute.org to join us in making the world a wilder place.