8 Nov 2016

Irreplaceable - Cross River National Park, Nigeria

Cross River © jbdodane/Flickr
Cross River © jbdodane/Flickr
By BirdLife News

In our 'Irreplaceable' series, we cast a light on the globally-significant bird habitats that are in danger of disappearing forever.

Cross River National Park is a large area of lowland and submontane rainforest situated in south-east Nigeria along the border with Cameroon. The park is divided into two sections. The smaller area to the north-east, Okwangwo Division, is separated by about 50 km of disturbed forest from the larger Oban Division. Which is contiguous with Korup National Park in Cameroon.

This is one of the most diverse sites in Nigeria for birds: over 350 bird species have been recorded in this still vastly underexplored park, including the Vulnerable Grey-necked Picathartes Picathartes oreas and Yellow-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna elata. The national park and its vast buffer zone holds no less than 18 species of primates, including lowland gorilla Gorilla gorilla, as well as other endemic and threatened mammals.

The areas surrounding the national park are threatened by plans to construct the Cross River super-highway promoted by the State Governor. Some of the concerns surrounding the construction of this highway are that the road is likely to attract farming, logging and hunting on a massive scale which will destroy the area’s rich biodiversity vital for human life.

Grey-necked Picathartes © Ian Fulton/HBW

The lives and livelihoods of the forest communities depend on this natural ecosystem; their food, water, shelter, medicine and culture is inextricably linked to the ecosystem services provided by the forests. Birds could suffer serious declines, a key indicator of the health of any ecosystem.

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Nigerian Conservation Foundation (BirdLife in Nigeria), in coalition with other international and national NGOs has sent a letter to the Government of Nigeria, asking for a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out before constructions begin. The current EIA has many shortcomings as it doesn’t take into account the manifold and potentially grave impacts on the area’s exceptional wildlife.

The State Government has agreed to the review of the EIA but is adamant that the road should be built, despite widespread opposition. BirdLife needs to continue putting pressure on both the state and federal governments to opt for a less damaging alternative route for this highway.