The Cross-River Gorilla; One of The World's Most Endangered Primates
A Species In Crisis
It seems nowadays that almost every single species you think of is "on the brink of extinction". Thankfully there are many good people out there who care and there are wonderful organisations, charities and individuals who contribute (in however large or small quantities), to help species in desperate need of saving.
There are now just four species of gorilla remaining; the mountain gorilla, the western lowland gorilla (which is the most widespread of all), the and of course the cross-river gorilla; a species that helps the planet and the forest just through living its ordinary day-to-day life - I will go into moe detail in a minute, but first I just wanted to share one opinion of mine, which many people don't agree with:
I strongly believe we can save this species. I believe it will be extremely difficult and require a huge amount of effort from some of the most influential bodies in Central Africa where this species lives; alongside awareness of the small things like buying FSC labelled wood - but I certainly don't think it is impossible to save the cross-river gorilla just yet.
So How Bad Is It?
There are between 250-300 individual cross river gorillas left in the world, and what makes this species so vulnerable is the fact that they are only found in one part of the world; in central Africa between the border of Cameroon and Nigeria.
Their entire population is broken down into family groups generally numbering no more than 20 gorillas in each. This means that the lack of genetic biodiversity threatens the species as there is potentially a risk of inbreeding (which has disastrous consequences for the offspring).
WWF (one of my favourite wild animal charities), have a future project which they are trying to action involving establishing protected parts of the forest where the gorillas are known to exist in and using these parts as 'hallways' which they can move gorillas to new groups, which means increasing the gene pool.
WWF has listed the cross river gorilla as a "main priority species" meaning they pour as much energy and financial support as they possibly can into preventing the extinction of these wonderful creatures.
What else makes them a top priority species?
These gorillas are part of a complex and only partially understood eco-system. Hundreds of variety of tree and plant depend on the cross river gorilla to eat their fruits and then spread the seeds once the fruit has been digested. This most likely means that insects, birds and other mammals further up the food chain rely on the spreading of these seeds for homes and food/prey.
One thing I am constantly reminded of in nature is that nothing is ever as simple or as clear as we think it is. We are still finding new species and wondering what part they play in our environment, and sadly many are wiped out before we get the chance to find out.
Can The Cross River Gorilla Species Survive?
What Are The Main Threats To The Cross River Gorilla?
Sadly cross river gorillas face many threats in the wild such as being hunted for body parts (which are hung or mounted as 'trophies', or sold for a staggering amount of money). There are both man-made and natural risks such as:
- Natural disease outbreaks - one example of this is the Ebola virus which threatens both apes and humans and is fatal with no cure.
- As I previously mentioned, the lack of genetic diversity now means more careful breeding has to be out into place due to a limited number of individuals.
- A loss of habitat
That third point is two-pronged. The large scale of habitat loss comes from deforestation caused by logging by illegal organisations and individuals. The second reason there is an ever-decreasing amount of habitat for these gorillas is the local people who cut trees down to make more room for pastoral and agricultural land.
The cross river gorilla is now known as the world's rarest great ape.
How Can We Help?
There is good news! Wonderful news in fact - because there is a lot more that every individual can do and does do on a daily basis to help the cross river gorilla species.
They may be ten thousand miles away from you, but certain things you buy and do have a knock-on effect which results in a safer environment for the gorillas; and with less than 300 individuals left, every tiny thing we can do makes a big impact.
Firstly, when you go to buy timber in any form - please ensure it has an FSC label! Basically, if it doesn't have this label then in could potentially be illegal timber which, when bought, ends up giving the profits to certain timber companies and individuals who are contributing massively to the loss of the cross river gorilla's habitat. There is virtually no difference in price - unless we are talking about saving a critically endangered species.
Second, you may only be one person, but you can still raise awareness through simply talking to friends and neighbours who have an interest or love of animals. There are so many people who would help out through donations or even charity work if only they knew how bad the situation was.
Donating money to charities such as The Aspinall Foundation and WWF is extremely helpful, but even if you can't give financially there are still many ways for you to help.
Visit a zoo for your next family outing! Obviously check online or in guide books what the reputation of the zoo is like beforehand as occasionally you get the odd one that is still stuck in the 19th Century in terms of their animal care. Most zoos have programmes which aim to result in releasing endangered creatures back into the wild and your ticket will help them reach their financial goals.