Communities in Boki and Akamkpa Local Government Areas of Cross River State said stray gorillas and elephants are posing risk to them and their means of livelihood.
They also expressed concern that the animals were beginning to pose threat to the lives of people in the communities, especially older women and children.
Members of the communities expressed their concerns during a workshop on Watershed Protection for Safe and Sustainable Water Supply on Friday in Calabar.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the workshop was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development and Wildlife Conservation Society.
Obeten Erasmus, a community leader in Boki, said though the animals were sometimes friendly, they still pose huge risks to the inhabitants.
He warned that the community members may be forced to retaliate if the animals continue with their destructions.
Erasmus said: “They have destroyed some of our farmlands leaving our entire efforts in ruins, if not checked, the people would start taking revenge on them.
“it is becoming regular for gorillas to leave their habitat in the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary in Boki and saunter into nearby communities in search of food and could not trace their way back.”
Addressing the issue, Dr. Inaoyom Imong, WSC Director, Cross River Landscape, appealed to the communities not to retaliate.
Imong said: “Don’t kill the animals.
“Elephants and gorillas are facing extinction going by their few numbers.
“No one will be happy to see these animals killed as they are under protection.”
Imong however said the population of gorillas and elephants in the area have been rising, and urged government to take measures to protect the animals.
He said: “It is the government that ought to ensure that the National Parks in the state which are gazetted as protected areas, are held as such.
“But we find that humans traversing these territories for economic trees and fruits such as bush mangoes, Afang leaves, cocoa, have left these places porous, which is the reason the animals stray out.
“To minimise incessant infiltration into the National Parks, we are providing alternative economic means, trainings and empowerments for forest communities.
“We also support them in the area of beekeeping and livestock, as ways to dissuade them.”
Imong added that the interface with stakeholders was to reduce illegal logging in the state because conservation required communities to have a change of behaviour towards nature.