Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary
Cross River State, Nigeria
Looking north along the west side of the Afi massif above the Boje villages.
On Afi Mountain wild drill still survive, with other endangered primates including the Nigerian chimpanzee Pan troglodytes vellerosus, and the most endangered gorilla subspecies, the Cross River gorilla Gorilla gorilla diehli. The rugged massif (1400m) is a critical watershed for dozens of communities.Â It is listed as an IBA (Important Bird Area) for Nigeria and hosts one of the largest migratory swallow roosts in Africa. The forests on Afi are a barrier against the encroaching derived savannah from the west and north.
In 1993, Pandrillus started community protection patrols using local hunters to discourage shooting and trapping, an education program in the 17 villages surrounding the mountain, and brought the communities together as a common interest group for the first time. The mountain was then part of the Afi River Forest Reserve (383 sq km), a production forest reserve for which logging concessions had been issued. Pandrillus community protection program prevailed and made great strides in controlling hunting, in particular developing popular support for protection of “The Big Three” – gorilla, drill and chimpanzee. Pandrillus continued lobbying the Cross River State Government to regazette this portion of the forest reserve as a wildlife sanctuary. In 1996, Liza won the prestigious Whitley Award for the world’s best wildlife conservation project, based on the combined activities at Afi. http://www.whitley-award.org/ In 2003 Liza received a Whitley Continuation Funding award in recognition on the ongoing work.
In 1998 Pandrillus invited longtime conservation ally Fauna & Flora International to join the effort at Afi Mountain. Two other NGOs, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Nigerian Conservation Foundation also stepped in to partner with us and the Cross River State Forestry Commission to devise a plan for the mountain. In May 2000 the state government legally created the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary (~100 sq km) from the northwest portion of the Afi River Forest Reserve. Today the sanctuary is the best-protected area for drills in the world.
Ubi Sam Ettah was Drill Ranch Manager for 10 years before accepting his current position as Conservation Coordinator for the sanctuary.
The Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary Partnership has held together and must remain vigilant to sustain protection for Afi’s forest and wildlife. While hunting is reasonably well under control, illegal encroachment by farms and loss of habitat to farming-associated burning is a major threat.
Pandrillus plans to release its first drill group into the sanctuary in 2008.
Topographic map by Rich Bergl showing boundary of the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary in Cross River State, Nigeria. Drill Ranch is located off the southeast flank of the massif (marked “Pandrillus”). Further southeast are the Mbe Mountains, where Peter & Liza started work in Nigeria in 1988. The Mbe Mountains are home to the next nearest subpopulation of gorillas and it is therefore high priority for the AMWS partnership to protect a forested corridor between the two areas, so as not to permanently isolate gorillas and other mammals on Afi. Protection of this forest was a major consideration in our selection of the Drill Ranch site in 1992.