Securing land tenure for local communities to protect Cross River gorillas

WCS Nigeria Program
Published: 20 January 2017
Last edited: 17 July 2019
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In a process facilitated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, nine communities surrounding the Mbe Mountains formed a conservation association to safeguard local forests and watersheds – and Africa's most endangered ape, the Cross River gorilla. Strengthening traditional management rights for local people improved their sense of ownership and reduced levels of hunting. The association is working to limit forest loss and protect habitat corridors by improving sustainable agriculture.


West and Central Africa
Scale of implementation
Forest ecosystems
Tropical evergreen forest
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Forest Management
Protected area governance
Protected area management planning
Species management
Sustainable livelihoods
Traditional knowledge
Erratic rainfall
Lack of alternative income opportunities
Lack of technical capacity
Unemployment / poverty


Mbe Mountains, Cross River, Nigeria
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The solution seeks to protect endangered wildlife by reducing levels of hunting, as well as protecting local watersheds by reducing rates of forest loss. The landscape inhabited by Cross River gorillas is increasingly fragmented, so protecting the Mbe Mountains safeguards an important corridor linking two protected areas. Previously low levels of community support for conservation have improved considerably.


The main beneficiaries are the nine communities surrounding the Mbe Mountains as well as the Cross River gorilla and endangered wildlife species; with watershed protection and safe drinking water provided for many more downstream communities.

How do the building blocks interact?

A strategic alliance between the Wildlife Conservation Society and the nine communities, represented by the Conservation Association of the Mbe Mountains, has helped to ensure that the three buildings blocks are combined effectively to produce the solution. Demonstrating reduced rates of hunting and forest loss within the Mbe Mountains has improved donor confidence in, and funding for, CAMM. This recognition, and improved local control of forests and wildlife, has in turn strengthened levels of community support for conservation. Speaking with one voice, and with better levels of trust between the nine communities and improved capacity of CAMM, the demands for more secure land tenure by the nine communities cannot be easily ignored.


The solution has dramatically reduced levels of hunting in the Mbe Mountains, and hunting is now lower in Mbe than in surrounding government-managed protected areas. In the long-term, reduced levels of hunting will have a positive impact on the status of Cross River gorillas. The solution has effectively engaged with nine different communities who are now represented by a single umbrella organization known as the Conservation Association of the Mbe Mountains. Conservation of the forest has helped protect local watersheds and forest-based livelihoods, which represent a particularly important source of income for women. Some livelihood benefits have been provided although they need to be on a much larger scale. Protecting important forest corridors by supporting cocoa farmers to reduce rates of forest loss offers hope for the future. Developing a sense of local ownership and pride has perhaps been more significant, helping to improve levels of support for conservation and discouraging hunting. The long-term benefits from ecotourism and REDD+ processes are still unknown.

Contributed by

Andrew Dunn Wildlife Conservation Society

Other contributors

Wildlife Conservation Society
Wildlife Conservation Society