Farmers and other villagers in communities in Boki and Akamkpa local government areas of Cross River State have lamented the continual stray of gorillas and elephants from their protected habitats into their farmlands and settlements.
Speaking at a one-day workshop sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, and the World Conservation Society in Calabar, the state capital, they complained that the animals devastate farmlands, impacting harvest and investments. They warned that they might kill the animals if the situation remains unabated.
According to them, continual straying or escaping these animals into human settlements poses a big risk to inhabitants, especially older women and children.
One of the community leaders, Elder Obeten Erasmus, said, “These animals may at times be friendly, but they pose big risks to human beings as they continue to escape from their confines.
“They have destroyed some of our farmlands, leaving our entire efforts in ruins.
“If not checked, the people could take revenge on them.”
Another recalled that before now, it was a regular case where a gorilla would leave its habitat in the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary in Boki and saunter into the nearby community in search of food and could not trace its way back.
Addressing the issue, a senior staff at the World Conservation Society, WCS, Dr Inaoyom Imong, passionately appealed to the communities that suffer the devastation of their farmlands not to kill the animals.
He said the elephants and gorillas were facing extinction going by their few numbers.
He said they would not be happy to see the animals killed as they are under protection.
He said it is the government that ought to ensure that the National Parks in the state, which are gazetted as protected areas, are held as such.
“But we find that human activities like traversing these territories for economic trees and fruits, such asbush mangoes, Afang leaves, cocoa, have left these places porous, which reasons the animals stray out,” he said.
To minimise incessant infiltration into the national parks, he said they are providing alternative economic means, training, empowerment for forest communities, and support for beekeeping and livestock as ways to dissuade them.
He pointed out that conservation requires communities to have a change of behaviour and attitude towards nature.