“Persistence in anti-poaching patrolling pays off” according to Inaoyom Imong, Director of the Cross River Landscape for IUCN Member and SOS Grantee, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). In 1 year, patrols through the Oban Division of the Cross River National Park (CRNP) Nigeria, have cleared almost 1,000 snares and hundreds of empty shotgun cartridges, discovered 45 hunting camps and arrested half a dozen poachers. But perhaps the cherry on the cake has been the visual confirmation of Critically Endangered Preuss’s Red Colobus (Procolobus preussi) living in the Oban.
“This is a huge discovery, and highlights the critical need for effective conservation in the area” explains Andrew Dunn, WCS Country Director for Nigeria. Geographical distribution of this rare primate is limited to western Cameroon and a small patch of the southeastern sector of the Oban Division of CRNP. Cross River National Park consists of two separate divisions: Oban and Okwangwo. The Oban Division covers an area of roughly 3000 km² and is contiguous with Korup National Park in Cameroon.
However, there has been no proper knowledge or documentation about the presence, distribution and population status of Preuss's Red Colobus in the area before. Being an internationally-recognized biodiversity hotspot and an important site for rare and threatened primates, Oban is now receiving attention after years of neglect, with an effective law enforcement programme implemented by the project team in coordination with the Nigerian Government.
This attention took the shape of multi-day patrols starting one year ago. It began with a group of six CRNP Rangers being trained by WCS on new techniques including the use of CyberTracker and SMART technologies to support data collection, monitoring and patrol effectiveness. Following the success of the subsequent nine-day pilot patrol the project ramped up activities implementing daily patrols in the Oban starting in January 2015.
Over the following months, patrols began intercepting a variety of illegal activities and making their presence known, all while conducting surveys in search of Preuss’s Red Colobus. Delivering results on both fronts so quickly is an encouraging sign for the project. “Conservation thrives well where there is effective collaboration”, summarizes Andrew “and this project is demonstrating that almost on a daily basis”.