World's Rarest Gorillas Gain New Refuge

Dan Morrison
for National Geographic News
April 22, 2008

The rarest gorillas in the world are being protected in a new sanctuary nestled in the mountains of Cameroon, the government announced recently.

A community of 20 Cross River gorillas now live in the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, the first exclusively dedicated to this subspecies of western lowland gorilla.

The apes are listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union: As few as 250 to 300 survive.

The animals are scattered over 11 mountain and forest sites in Cameroon and Nigeria, driven to the verge of extinction by hunting and loss of habitat.

Cameroonian Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni announced the Kagwene sanctuary in a decree on April 3.

(See an illustration of a Cross River gorilla, recently named one of the 25 most endangered primates.)

Every Ape Counts

Researcher Jacqueline Sunderland-Groves has studied Cross River gorillas since 1997. She established the Wildlife Conservation Society research team working in the area.

The Kagwene sanctuary is "a major conservation achievement for this subspecies," Sunderland-Groves said.

Cross River gorillas are the northernmost and westernmost subspecies of gorillas. Their diet is more diverse than that of western lowland gorillas, and Cross River gorillas are found in a wider range of habitats, including lowland forests, mountain forests, and grasslands.

Richard Bergl is curator of conservation and research at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro.

"Given the small size of the Cross River gorilla population, every single individual is important for the long-term survival of this subspecies," he said.

Continued on Next Page >>


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