SUPERHIGHWAY THREATENS RARE GORILLAS

The Ekuri forest is in the buffer zone of Cross River National Park, one of the most biodiverse sites in all of Africa, home to a number of rare and endangered wildlife species including the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and some of the last forest elephants in West Africa.

In a letter to the governor of Cross River State, Nigeria sent on February 7, Ekuri Community leaders explained why they were withdrawing their support for the superhighway project, calling it “a land grab in the guise of a Super Highway.”
A proposed superhighway in southeast Nigeria has prompted calls from locals and the international community to stop what they claim is a land grab in the middle of a celebrated community-managed forest.

The people of Old Ekuri and New Ekuri, villages in Cross River State that are collectively known as the Ekuri Community, live in one of Nigeria’s last surviving rainforests. The two villages co-manage a 33,600-hectare (about 83,000-acre) community-owned forest, one of the largest in West Africa.

The Ekuri forest is in the buffer zone of Cross River National Park, one of the most biodiverse sites in all of Africa, home to a number of rare and endangered wildlife species including the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and some of the last forest elephants in West Africa.

“Our forest is our wealth and the beacon of our hopes and aspirations,” the Ekuri leaders wrote. “Thus, taking away our forest and the benefits there-from, is likened to taking a fish out of water onto land to die painfully… this is what the revocation means for us.”

The Ekuri people are calling for construction of the superhighway to be stopped until a new route can be found, and made it clear that they would protect their forests through non-violent protests. The international community is taking up those calls, as well.

In a letter sent to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Federal Minister of Environment Amina Mohammed, Cross River State Governor Ben Ayade, and other Nigerian officials, Taghi Farvar and Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend of the Switzerland-based ICCA Consortium, a coalition of Indigenous groups and community-based conservation organizations, write that the government’s superhighway project would have “irremediably negative consequences for the Ekuri forest” despite its own conservation commitments.

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