As part of efforts to protect endangered species between Nigeria and Cameroon region, a Trans-boundary World Heritage site will soon be put in place.
A statement yesterday by the Country Director, Nigeria Programme, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Mr. Andy Dunn on behalf of European Union (EU) and the WCS said, “as part of efforts to establish a Trans boundary World Heritage Site in the region, participatory consultations have now been completed with all Cross River National Park (CRNP) support communities.
He said that “the rainforests of Cross River State form part of an internationally recognized biodiversity hot spot and an important centre of plant diversity with very high levels of species richness and endemism”.
Dunn said that at the heart of this rainforest block is CRNP established in 1991, “is the richest and most diverse national park in Nigeria, and in 2014 was identified as one of the priority ‘Key Landscapes for Conservation’ in Africa by the European Union (EU).
“It is home to a wide variety of endangered species including the Cross River gorilla, forest elephant, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and drill. The national park is also a critical watershed for Cross River State and has significant potential for tourism”.
On the EU funded Programme to Support the CRNP and boost local livelihoods inaugural Project Steering Committee meeting that held in Abuja recently, he said following the support initiatives from the EU, “levels of hunting (the major threat to wildlife) have declined as measured by the number of wire snares recorded per kilometre”.
He said that, “the €2 million project aims to ensure that the rainforests and wildlife of Cross River State are effectively conserved, to continue to provide critical, connected habitat for the protection and recovery of Africa’s rarest gorillas, and improving wellbeing through sustainable livelihoods for local communities.
“To realise these objectives, the project seeks to reduce human activities that pose a threat to the gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants and their habitat and to provide improved environmentally sustainable economic opportunities for the communities surrounding CRNP”.
Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 during this past year, Dunn said the meeting observed that “good progress has been made towards strengthening the management of CRNP to protect the Cross River gorillas and other endangered wildlife”.
To improve the livelihood of the people, he said through the EU programme, “a total of 150,000 improved cocoa seedlings are currently being raised in 14 WCS nurseries around the park for distribution to existing cocoa farmers in order to replant old farms to increase productivity and avoid the deforestation typically associated with the creation of new cocoa farms.
“A total of 30 new school conservation clubs have been established and there are now more than 6,000 members belonging to 102 school conservation clubs around CRNP”.
Launched in 2020 with €2 million from the EU, the “Project for the Preservation of Forest Ecosystems in Cross River State, Nigeria” is helping to strengthen the protection of Cross River National Park, and is working with 1,000 households surrounding the park by promoting conservation-friendly cocoa farming and the sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products as well as strengthening resilience to climate change and boosting levels of food security.
The four-year project is being implemented by the WCS in collaboration with the Nigeria National Park Service and Cross River State Government.