Afi Mountain wildlife sanctuary, a home of apes, monkeys
Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary (AMWS) is another tourist site in Cross River State, a home to rare chimpanzees, endangered gorillas, and drill monkeys.
The Sanctuary was established 16 years ago with a vision to provide an improved protection to important populations of several endangered species, including the endangered Cross River’s gorilla, the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, the drill and the grey-necked Picathartes or rockfowl.
Afi, which was formerly part of the Afi River Forest Reserve, is covered by roughly 100km² of lowland and sub-montane forest with rocky peaks rising to altitudes of 1,300m.
Although the steep mountainous slopes of the sanctuary have largely protected it from logging, the forest is frequently damaged by dry-season bush fire set by local farmers, clearing new farms or to flush game. Interestingly, open areas created by this fire are quickly colonized by herb species, which form an important staple food for gorillas.
On the western flank of the mountain is a large grassland roost of migratory European barn swallows, estimated to contain up to 20 million birds at times and reputed to be the largest wintering roost site of swallows in Africa.
This explained why it was listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) for hosting and watching the largest migration of swallow roosts on the African continent.
AMWS is surrounded by 16 communities with a total population of approximately 27,000 years ago. First established in 1997, a conservation education project in these communities has helped raise levels of awareness of the importance of the sanctuary and its unique wildlife yet many people still hunt and farm within the sanctuary.
However, Afi faces challenges of high-level hunting and encroachment by local farmers and it may loose some of these Gorillas, Monkeys and Chimpanzees to hunters if the State government fails to up her game in protecting the wildlife in it.
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