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Rare photos of infants suggest endangered gorillas may be making a comeback

Conservationists have captured the first images of rare Cross River gorillas with several infants, proof that the subspecies is reproducing amid protection efforts.
John Oates, professor emeritus at the City University of New York, who helped establish conservation efforts for the gorillas, was thrilled with the images from Nigeria’s Mbe Mountains.
“It was great to see…evidence that these gorillas in these mountains are reproducing successfully because there have been so few images in the past,” he told the Associated Press.
“We know very little about what is going on with reproduction with this subspecies, so to see many young animals is a positive sign.”
Experts are not sure exactly how many Cross River gorillas are in the mountains, but some previously estimated that as few as 300 might remain. At one point, the gorillas were thought to be extinct, but they were “re-discovered” in the wild in the 1980s.
Inaoyom Imong, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Nigeria’s Cross River Landscape project, said the gorillas were under massive threat from hunters. He said that the photos, which were taken in a forest without formal protection status, indicates “we can have strong community support in conservation.”
But Imong warned of other dangers. “Snares set for other game pose a threat to the gorillas as infants can be caught in them and potentially die from injuries,” Imong told the Associated Press (AP).
The ongoing political conflict in neighboring Cameroun may have an impact on the Cross River gorillas’ lives as well.
Many animals are on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss, poaching or changing environments. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) maintains the IUCN Red List that tracks critically endangered species and those that are already extinct in the wild.
“Refugees from the ongoing insecurity in Cameroun are also moving into the area, and they will likely increase hunting pressure and the need for more farmland,” Imong told AP.
WCS Nigeria director Andrew Dunn said it was the first time in his 17 years researching the extremely shy gorilla subspecies that he saw indications that their numbers were increasing again.
“It is encouraging that there are multiple infants in the group, which means they…breed successfully,” Dunn told dpa.
Dunn said there have been more than a dozen eco-guards from surrounding communities to patrol and protect the gorillas and other wildlife.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Cross River gorilla is critically endangered — the designation for plants or animals deemed to face an “extremely high risk” of extinction in the wild.

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