My Gorilla – My Community
(Nigeria, Cameroon)

In a remote village in the highlands along the Nigeria and Cameroon border, a village is torn apart over plans to convert the community forest into an oil palm plantation. Who is interested in preserving the community’s natural way of life, and who is simply acting out of self-interest? In the local bar known as Linda’s Joint, hunters are reformed; village leaders fall under the spells of love, money, power, and palm wine; and a little girl’s determination to save a baby gorilla from the clutches of a renowned hunter transforms the King of Hunters into a Gorilla Guardian. Corruption, arrests, betrayal and violence befall the village as it comes to grips with the dangers of illegal hunting and deforestation and learns how to survive without destroying its natural resources.

Target Audience: Community members living in the communities surrounding both current and potential Cross River gorilla range habitat whose livelihoods are supported primarily by farming, NTFP extraction and hunting/fishing.

The Issue: Once thought to be extinct, the Cross River gorilla is the most endangered African ape and among the world’s 25 most endangered primate species. Hunting and habitat loss are their biggest barriers to survival: the number of mature Cross River gorillas is estimated at fewer than 200, and the total population is estimated at fewer than 300.

Program Summary: My Gorilla – My Community is a partnership between PCI Media Impact and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), with the support of the Cross River State Forestry Commission and the Cross River National Park. This partnership supports the Regional Action Plan for Conservation of the Cross River Gorilla (2006-2011) and driving its development and implementation through Entertainment-Education. The partnership supports the Communications for Development program to protect the remaining Cross River gorillas and their habitat. The heart of the program is Linda’s Joint, a 52-episode radio drama, and the accompanying talk show Wildlife Palaver. Season I (26 episodes) of Linda’s Joint is complete with a Season II (additional 26 episodes) fully-funded from USFWS. Season I will begin airing in 2015, reaching up to 2 million people and all of our core target audience of 150,000 people living in close proximity to gorilla habitat.

As our flagship species conservation project, My Gorilla – My Community is aimed at reshaping behaviors in communities within and adjacent to the habitat of the critically endangered Cross River gorilla along the southern section of the Nigeria-Cameroon border. The overall objectives for My Gorilla – My Community are:

  • Develop the capacity of WCS and local organizations in Nigeria and Cameroon to better use communications to effectively enhance community protection activities and motivate long-term social change in favor of Cross River gorillas.
  • Build a community of coalitions of well-informed constituents who understand and support protection of the Cross River gorilla.
  • Change attitudes and behaviors related to Cross River gorillas and heighten awareness of the threats to their long-term survival.

The program aims to:

  • Increase appreciation of the uniqueness of Cross River gorillas, and by proxy, of the importance of the region’s overall biodiversity and natural resources.
  • Raise awareness of the links between the activities of the general public, environmental degradation, and impacts on the Cross River gorilla population.
  • Increase the willingness of individuals to make proactive decisions on matters related to biodiversity conservation, sustainable land management, and protection of the Cross River gorillas.
  • Bolster the scope and depth of community and organizational action in support of efforts to protect Cross River gorillas and their habitats by extending campaigns on both sides of the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

As Media Impact continues its investment in this species conservation program, we expect to learn key lessons that will help us not only cultivate a local environment and local attitudes that offer the Cross River gorilla the best chance of survival, but that will also translate into developing similarly sympathetic environments for endangered species in other critical habitats. Creating a community sympathetic to conservation, My Gorilla – My Community will facilitate the implementation of our partners’ direct conservation efforts, and it will be an ambassador project for similar communications efforts targeting species conservation elsewhere.

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