The Cross River Gorilla Project is helping to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in the Lebialem Highlands area and importantly, is supporting the conservation of the world’s rarest great ape. Gorillas have been referred to as ‘Guardians of the forest’ as they play an important role in seed dispersal and replenishing the forest which helps to protect biodiversity on a larger scale. There are only 200 to 300 of these remarkable animals left on Earth and it has now become a necessity that we all unite in efforts to protect these beautiful creatures and support those who share their habitat.
In 2015, I (and the rest of my family) gave my father-in-law, John Daniels, an eco tourism trip to Cameron organised through Louis Nkembi, chairman of a local Cameroonian conservation group called Euredef. Upon his return home, John told me he was asked by Louis to start a U.K. charity to help with conservation in the Lebialem Highlands and to help protect the critically endangered Cross River Gorilla. John asked me to help with the branding, marketing and the PR side of things as this is my background. Then, he and I just dove straight into the deep end of conversation charity and the Cross River Gorilla Project (CRGP) was born.
Initially, although incredibly passionate about the protection of the gorillas, I was also very concerned with the surrounding rainforest communities and wanted to try to find a way to empower, in particular, the local women in this area. My mother, Salome, was a teacher working with disadvantaged children for years and always told me stories of her students that made me feel so lucky to have the opportunities that I had growing up. This stuck with me and as soon as I joined CRGP, one of my main initiatives was the SALOME Women’s Empowerment Award. We organised an art competition with Lucia Nkembi, a local teacher, and wife of conservationist Louis Nkembi. The first place winner won a scholarship to complete their high school education. Knowing what this meant to the girls I ended up with 3 winners and made 2 suitcases worth of donations to their school of art and art history books - a subject they currently didn’t have on their curriculum.
I am a CRGP brand ambassador and help bring in other like minded activists, and members looking to make a real difference. I work alongside Amelia Windsor, CRGP’s official patron who has been instrumental in helping raise awareness of CRGP’s various initiatives and has helped to highlight the current challenges in regards to rangers in the forest and continued education for the children (both here and locally in Cameroon) who help protect the gorillas' rainforest habitat. Since CRGP is 100% volunteer based, all the money we raise goes straight to the rainforest and its communities. I also set up a volunteer internship programme with the Media and PR postgraduate programme at Newcastle University and have since had volunteers work with me in the studio to help every year in combining our efforts to solve some of our most challenging issues.
I’m so very passionate about CRGP’s efforts to save the Lebialem Highland rainforest and protect the habitat for generations of Cross River Gorillas; as they are the most critically endangered gorillas on the planet we need to make as much noise as we can, at all levels, within the community, within schools and universities and even at the government level. This is an opportunity to change the course of the future for these incredible animals and together we can all save the Cross River Gorillas
All photos by the Cross River Gorilla Project