One of the most endangered subspecies of chimpanzees is the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, also known as Elliot’s chimpanzee.
It is found mainly in Nigeria and SW Cameroon. Here in Nigeria, the chimpanzee is found in the large forest blocks of Cross River State, including Cross River National Park, the Mbe Mountains, and the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary.
Also, smaller groups of chimpanzees still occur in the remaining forest fragments of southwestern Nigeria and the Niger Delta. However, these small and isolated populations are at increased risk of extinction from disease and other unpredictable events.
The main stronghold for chimpanzees in Nigeria is in the Gallery forests and habitat mosaic of Gashaka Gumti National Park in Taraba State, where it is estimated that perhaps 1,000 chimpanzees survive. Estimates of the total chimpanzee population in Nigeria range from 1,400 to 2,300 with similar numbers in SW Cameroon.
As the human population increases across Nigeria and Cameroon, habitat destruction and hunting are driving the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee into extinction.
Chimpanzees are mainly hunted using shotguns, although they are also caught in wire snares set for terrestrial animals.
Habitat loss occurs as a result of agriculture, logging, grazing, and fire. This has led to fragmentation in the distribution of the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, leaving them at risk.
Differences Between Chimpanzees and Monkeys
- Chimpanzees and monkeys are both primates, but they belong to different families. Chimpanzees belong to the Ape family, while monkeys belong to the Monkey family, which can be divided into Old World Monkeys and New World Monkeys
- Most monkey species have a tail, while chimpanzees do not have a tail.
- Chimpanzees are generally larger and have broad chests and shoulder joints that allow them to swing through trees, while monkeys are usually smaller and narrow-chested.
- Chimpanzees also show more closeness to humans than monkeys in terms of evolutionary and genetic aspects.
- Chimpanzees have bigger brains, so they tend to be smarter than monkeys and have more advanced cognitive and language skills.
What is the current status of Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee?
The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee is recognised as the most threatened and least widely distributed of all the common chimpanzee subspecies, facing a high likelihood of extinction in the coming decades. The total remaining population is estimated to be between 3,500 and 9,000 individuals living in forested habitats to the north of the Sanaga River in Cameroon, the eastern edge of Nigeria, and in forest fragments in the Niger Delta and southwestern Nigeria.
Efforts are being made to protect this endangered species. For example, the Ekiti State government of Nigeria has issued an executive order establishing a conservation area within the Ise Forest Reserve, where about 20 Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees are believed to live.
How Elliot’s Chimpanzee in Nigeria Can Be Protected
There are several ways you can help protect Elliot’s chimpanzee in Nigeria:
- Support conservation organisations: By supporting organisations that work to protect Elliot’s chimpanzee and their habitat, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Nigeria. These organisations work on initiatives such as supporting the creation of new protected areas, providing support to strengthen the management of protected areas through law enforcement, community conservation efforts to involve local people in conservation efforts to save Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees, and conservation education and raising levels of awareness.
- Spread awareness: You can help spread awareness about the plight of Elliot’s chimpanzees and the importance of protecting their habitat. This can be done by sharing information with your friends, family, and social media followers.
- Make responsible choices: Make choices in your daily life that help reduce your impact on the environment. Examples of such include reducing your use of single-use plastics, recycling, and supporting sustainable products.
- Contact your representatives: Contact your government representatives and urge them to support policies and initiatives that protect Elliot’s chimpanzees and their habitat.