World's rarest gorilla finds sanctuary

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Washington, Apr 19 (UNI) Cross River gorilla, the world's rarest ape of its kind, has been provided with safe heaven in Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary in Cameroon.

Classified as ''Critically Endangered'' by IUCN's Red List, the Cross River gorilla is the rarest of the four subspecies of gorillas.

The entire population numbers under 300 across its entire range, which consists of 11 scattered sites in Cameroon and Nigeria. The Cross River gorilla with scientific name, ''Gorilla gorilla diehli'' is one of two subspecies of western gorilla.

The Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary is a small reserve only 19.5 square kilometers in size in a mountainous region of Cameroon.

Nevertheless, it contains a genetically important segment of the entire Cross River gorilla population; it is estimated that the sanctuary currently contains approximately 20 individual animals.

While many populations of gorillas are threatened by poachers, the gorillas of Kagwene have been protected by the local belief that the apes are people and therefore cannot be hunted or consumed, Science Daily reported.

Elsewhere, hunting continues to be one of the biggest threats to Cross River gorillas, in addition to habitat destruction.

Gorillas are occasionally targeted by hunters of bushmeat in the region, and genetic analysis of the population reveals a reduction in numbers over the last 200 years that is most likely due to hunting.

The fragmentation of their forest habitat is caused by farming, road-building, and the burning of forests by pastoralists.

''The creation of this sanctuary is the fruit of many years of work in helping to protect the world's rarest gorilla subspecies,'' Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Cameroon Programme's Director Roger Fotso said.

UNI XC SZ KN1754

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