How can the lowly snail save the world's most endangered gorilla species? For the impoverished locals that inhabit the same region as the critically threatened Cross River gorilla, farming snails could provide an alternative - a steadier and more attractive - source of income than gorilla poaching. That's what the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is betting on in their new and experimental initiative to rehabilitate and sponsor former poachers in the new vocation of snail farming.
A delicacy vs. bushmeat
Snails are a delicacy that is in high demand in Nigeria. According to WCS figures, the annual cost to run a snail farm is $87, while selling 3,000 snails yearly brings in about $413, which means a steady profit for your typical snail farmer compared the $70 that each occasionally poached gorilla brings in. It's a world of difference between the sustained poverty of poaching, versus the secure livelihood promised by snail farming.
With funding provided by Great Apes Program of the Arcus Foundation, eight former poachers were chosen from four local villages. Each of them will be provided with 230 quick-breeding giant African snails.
James Deutsch, Director of the WCS's Africa program says in the press release:
People living near Cross River gorillas have trouble finding alternative sources of income and food and that's why they poach. We are working with them to test many livelihood alternatives, but perhaps the most promising, not to mention novel, is snail farming.
Only 300 gorillas left
The program, which will be expanded to other Cross River gorilla sites later this year, is one of many steps that are needed to ensure the survival of the 300-odd Cross River gorillas that are left.
Believed to be extinct until their rediscovery in the 1980s, these gorillas dwell in the mountainous border region between Nigeria and Cameroon and are currently being threatened by illegal logging, poaching, mining and the charcoal trade. Based on current projections, it's feared that these gorillas may be wiped out in 15 years, but programs such as this one could be the lifeline that the gorillas and locals alike desperately need.
Wildlife Conservation Society
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