West Country wildlife conservationists are speaking out for the people and rainforests of West Africa. Staff at the Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), based at Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, are calling on the authorities in Nigeria to stop the construction of a road through vital rainforest habitat.
Paignton Zoo educator Louise Coombes said: “The new Governor in Cross River State wants to build a road straight through the rainforest, from a planned deep sea port in Esighi in the south of Cross River State to Benue State in the north of Nigeria. This road will destroy and fragment valuable habitat and threaten the Ekuri people who live there. Nigeria has already lost the majority of its rainforests, so what is left is very precious.”
According to United Nations figures, Nigeria has the highest rate of deforestation in the world.
“We are pleased that the route has now been changed so it no longer goes through gorilla habitat. But it is still rainforest that is – like Omo, in the south west, where we carry out environmental education work – vital for the very rare Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzee, forest elephant and forest buffalo.
“The superhighway will rip through the heart of their forest, opening it up to farming, hunting and logging on a massive scale. The government has now seized the ancestral land of thousands of forest-dependent villagers for 10km either side of the 260km road. This means that that all the forest communities including the Ekuri are effectively landless and homeless. Conservation is about people as well as plants and animals.”
Louise has visited Cross River National Park, in Cross River state, with colleague Dr Andrew Bowkett, Programmes Manager for the Trust’s Field Conservation & Research Department. Money from the Great Gorillas Project was donated to support the conservation of the Cross River gorillas. Part of the new road will go through the buffer zone, on the border of the Park, which is home to Cross River gorillas.
Dr Amy Plowman, Director of Conservation and Education for the charity, added: “We want to prevent the destruction of some of the richest remaining forests in Nigeria and the eviction of communities that have lived there for generations. The bulldozers have already started in Etara and Eyeyen and are moving towards Ekuri.”
Click here to find out more and to sign a petition against the superhighway:
The Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust is the charity that runs Paignton Zoo, Living Coasts in Torquay and Newquay Zoo in Cornwall, as well as several nature reserves in Devon. Paignton Zoo Environmental Park is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.Follow