Chairman's Christmas Letter, December 2020

Dear CRGP Friends,


Just a quick note from me to say thank you so much for your interest and support for Cross River Gorilla Project this year and to update you on recent developments. With the present crisis in anglophone South West Cameroon our work to support local forest communities in the Lebialem Highlands has become critical. The village of Besali where I stayed in 2013 and 2017 was raided by the military in September with four people killed - two women and two men - and the rest of the community fleeing into the forest and to safety in Dschang. This is a town in the francophone area of Cameroon where we have already been supporting the work of CAWI (Centre for Advanced Women’s Initiatives) to help the women and children refugees. A major problem is education with many children having had no schooling for the past three years with many mothers unable to pay the fees to have their children in school.

“There is no conservation without community support."

To conserve the Cross River Gorilla and rain forest of the Lebialem Highlands (where the

iconic animal is found), we need to be able to work with the community and to ensure that

we protect the gorillas and forest. Ecotourism was an initial CRGP focus, so the forest is a unique selling point for the area with potential economic benefits for ecotourism once the present conflict is resolved.


When the local forest communities have been forced to flee, it is our duty to show our support for them.

Our first priority is to get support for the Community Rangers and their families as the best way to help ensure the survival of the Cross River Gorilla when camps of separatist fighters have been set up in the rain forest, looking for bushmeat as a source of food. We are launching a Community Ranger Appeal to help address this situation. It is also, vital we continue our support for the women and children refugees in Dschang, empowering women and providing funding for the education of their children.


Thanks to Our Volunteers, Partners and Patron


Education has always been a central focus for CRGP. While this has not been an easy year, thanks to our super volunteers Jennifer Chennells, Project Manager and Rebecca (Bexi) Salt, Education Outreach Intern, we have continued to be active and innovative, producing for lockdown a high quality set of materials for home schooling – ‘Gorilla Club’ information and activities on gorillas, rain forest and conservation. Interest in this resource has gone global with individuals in the USA, Columbia, Australia and Germany working on the four packs of materials. We are now looking to put these valuable resources into UK schools and with the support of IUCN to provide an adapted version to make children in Cameroon aware of their rich natural heritage – well done Bexi and Jennie!

We also, need to thank Will Ovenden and Chess Ridley for their fundraising efforts and particularly to Carmel Ovenden, who ran the virtual wreath making session. Thanks also, to the excellent Media Studies team who developed and introduced – the innovative #PeelOrPay challenge - and SNES (School of Natural and Environmental Science) students who continue to make such a positive contribution to the work of CRGP.


It is worth saying that everyone working for CRGP are volunteers.

The importance of our partnership with ERuDeF (the Environment Rural Development Foundation) a Cameroon NGO and its CEO and Director, Louis Nkembi, needs to be emphasised. CRGP can be seen as acting as a catalyst for innovative ideas and ways of addressing, with ERuDeF, the pressing problems in South West Cameroon.


To help us promote the work of CRGP to a wider audience we are delighted to announce the appointment of our royal patron: Lady Amelia Windsor, an enthusiastic supporter of environmental and women’s causes.

A positive year then, in difficult circumstances but the more challenging the situation the more important and urgent it is to take action. Do please think of us at this Christmas time and the urgent need to support our work to protect the rain forest, Cross River Gorilla and local forest communities who find themselves in a situation described as the most unreported humanitarian crisis. All your contributions will go directly to supporting conservation and the situation in South West Cameroon.


CRGP is a small, ambitious charity with an enthusiastic and practical approach to the challenges facing

• the iconic Cross River Gorilla,

• the rain forest of the Lebialem Highlands in South West Cameroon

• importantly, the local forest communities.


We find ourselves at the cutting edge of conservation: combating species extinction and climate change and supporting local communities in a time of conflict.


Supporting CRGP is to be able to say you are doing your bit for saving the planet. Congratulations, you don’t get much more worthwhile or relevant in today’s world than doing this!


Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and New Year,


Very Best Wishes to all of you,


John


Chair CRGP


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