Seeking: Female Gorilla for Serious Relationship

December 11, 2017

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Photo Credit: ©WCS Nigeria

Tall, muscular male with striking black hair and shy disposition seeks female. No human contact appreciated.

That would be an accurate personal ad for Ichi, a lone male Cross River gorilla who has been spotted on the outskirts of two Nigerian villages, miles from the nearest forest. Cross River gorillas are Africa's rarest apes, so Ichi has his work cut out for him.

This gorilla sub-species has rarely been seen in the wild. They avoid humans by living on the steepest, most inaccessible mountain slopes.

Researchers believe Ichi is a “blackback” – a young male that has recently left his family group to start his own. Gorillas normally live in small groups composed of a large dominant male known as a silverback, together with three to four females and their young. When the young gorillas mature, they leave to join another gorilla group. (The camera trap photo above is of a Cross River gorilla silverback; Ichi has not yet been photographed).

Each blackback gorilla must roam the forest in search of a mate. These wanderings are very important for the long-term survival of the species, allowing for the exchange of genes between groups.

WCS has been educating local village chiefs about the gorillas, which are harmless, to prevent them from being killed. Thanks to this increased awareness, and two enlightened village chiefs in Ofambe (Chief Julius Ochui) and Okiro (Chief Augustine Bitte), the presence of this gorilla so close to the village has so far been tolerated by the community. These efforts even include an educational radio drama, "My Gorilla, My Community."

The Cross River gorilla is restricted to the mountains of Cross River State in Nigeria and adjacent areas in the south western region of Cameroon. After decades of hunting and habitat loss, only 100 Cross River gorillas are estimated to survive in Nigeria, and another 200 are estimated to remain in Cameroon.

Regarding Ichi, WCS's Cross River Gorilla expert Dr. Inaoyom Imong said, “As long as the gorilla is left alone it will likely find its way back to the forest, and hopefully a mate. This would be a positive outcome for conservation and the future of Nigeria’s biological heritage.”

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