Our chairman John Daniels shares our latest updates in a letter to our supporters...
Dear Friends of the Cross River Gorilla Project, First, I hope that everyone is keeping well and safe in these demanding times. While you have been kept up to date with CRGP developments through Jennie’s excellent newsletters and Instagram posts, it seemed useful for me to give an overview of the current situation in terms both, of our work and activities but also, importantly, the present situation in Cameroon and in particular the Lebialem Highlands where the Cross River Gorilla is found.
It is good to be able to report that unlike many environmental charities, we have been able to continue working. Previous efforts to create an education pack for schools has been adapted to meet the present crisis with the launch of the Gorilla Club by our Education Outreach Intern Rebecca Salt.
This consists of a series of information and activity packs on the Cross River Gorilla and the rain forest of the Lebialem Highlands designed specifically for children of primary school age who are being home schooled – hopefully the packs also, provide an interesting family activity. One feature of these packs is to take you away from the tedium of lockdown and out into the rain forest, imagining that you are there, actually experiencing this incredible world and the exciting flora and fauna found there. This material, although only recently posted on line, appears to have global appeal (subscribers from Germany, France, USA, Australia and New Zealand) and those signing up to participate in the UK steadily increasing. Please do look at this resource and see whether you have a younger relative or know of someone to send the Gorilla Club.
Situation in the Lebialem Highlands
One of the problems for CRGP has been to know exactly how things are for the forest communities and the protection of the rain forest and Cross River Gorilla. The Lebialem Highlands is an area badly affected by the fighting taking place in South West Cameroon with rebel groups – the Ambazonia Defence Force – fighting government forces and seeking independence for the anglophone speaking areas of Cameroon. Louis Nkembi of ERuDeF, our Cameroon partners has been able to hold a meeting with a number of community rangers working in the afflicted area. We have therefore for the first time details of how things are on the ground there. While hunting is reported as being much reduced – the communities have had their weapons taken – there is a problem that an increasing number of farms are being cut out of the forest in order to feed the local population. Gorillas are raiding these new farms and there is therefore, the likelihood of increasing tension between gorillas and the local community.
It is hard to imagine how local communities are surviving in this war zone where there is no security – the gendarmes who provided policing have fled – with the cocoa and palm oil market in a state of collapse and where no schools have been open for the past two years. To add to these difficulties the Corona Virus epidemic is taking hold in Cameroon, a real danger in an area where there are practically no medical resources.
The really positive element however, is that Louis Nkembi has been able to put in place these community rangers an essential element in the protection of the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla – evidence from other conflict areas (Rwanda) have shown how the presence of rangers can be crucial for their survival.
Our current focus is to work closely with Louis and ERuDeF to support the twelve rangers in place, helping to provide them with the equipment, especially radios, they need but also, to help them financially by helping to fund the education for their children. In addition it is important for us to publicise the present crisis and the importance of the work of ERuDeF on which quite simply, the survival of the Cross River Gorilla in this area depends.
It is worth ending by quoting a remark from Sir David Attenborough on why these magnificent animals are so important and worthy of our full support:
There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than any other animal I know.
John Chairman, CRGP