Nigeria's Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary may only be the size of Paris, but this patch of lowland forest and rocky peaks is home to important species – as evidenced by a recent camera-trap survey carried out by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Nigeria Program. Images released from the area have revealed a host of species including Cross River gorillas (a gorilla subspecies with a total population estimated at just 300 individuals), Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, drills, and red river hogs all living within the small sanctuary.

Cross River gorillas in Nigeria's Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. Image © WCS Nigeria
Chimpanzees in Nigeria's Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. Image © WCS Nigeria
Drills in Nigeria's Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary. Image © WCS Nigeria

"While Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary still faces challenges, these camera trap images give us hope and are a testimony that our conservation efforts are working," Dr. Inaoyom Imong Director of WCS Nigeria's Cross River Landscape stated in a press release.

The sanctuary, which is roughly 100 square kilometres (39 square miles) was established by the Cross River State Government in 2000 in order to protect the region's gorillas and other threatened species. While the steep terrain of the reserve's slopes make is difficult for illegal loggers to pillage timber from the highlands, poaching remains a concern in the area. The 13 community rangers – hired by the WCS Nigeria Program from each of the 13 communities that surround the sanctuary – extracted 2,405 snares from the reserve last year. Gorillas are likely not the intended targets of these wire traps which are usually set to catch small game such as porcupines, hyrax and cane rats, but young primates are still at risk of becoming ensnared.

In the lowlands of Afi, logging and illegal farms – of which there are at least 1,000 inside the sanctuary – threaten the local habitat. WCS rangers are conducting patrols in the sanctuary and working with cocoa farmers to ensure a more sustainable future.

Header image: WCS Nigeria