The Conservation and Status of Sclater’s Guenon in Ikot Uso Akpan Community Forest, Itu, Nigeria   

Daniel Etim Jacob , Edem Archibong Eniang , Ubong Ime Udoakpan , Imaobong Ufot Nelson
1 Forestry and Wildlife Department, University of Uyo, Nigeria
2 Biodiversity Preservation Center, Uyo, Nigeria
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Molecular Ecology and Conservation, 2013, Vol. 3, No. 5   doi: 10.5376/ijmec.2013.03.0005
Received: 04 Apr., 2013    Accepted: 11 Apr., 2013    Published: 06 Dec., 2013
© 2013 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Preferred citation for this article:

Jacob et al., 2013, The Conservation And Status Of Sclater’s Guenon In Ikot Uso Akpan Community Forest, Itu, Nigeria, International Journal of Molecular Ecology and Conservation Vol.3, No.5, 27-33 (doi: 10.5376/ijmec.2013.03.0005)

Abstract

Ikot Uso Akpan community remains the only Sclater�s guenon habitat in Akwa Ibom State with pockets of forest fragments that serve as an important refuge for Sclater's guenon because the primate species is considered sacred and hunting of the species is prohibited in the community. This paper assesses the conservation efforts and the status of the species in the community. The study shows that habitat degradation in the area is severe and negatively impact on the population structure of the primate species in the study area resulting in an ageing population. Adequate measures are urgently needed to restore and conserved the forest fragment to ensure the survival of the endemic primate species in the study area.

Keywords
Conservation; Sclater's guenon; Community forest; Itu; Nigeria

Introduction
The tropical ecosystems contain a large proportion of the world’s biodiversity (Sohdi et al., 2004; Quinten, 2008). Due to extensive exploitation of the natural resources, the region is under severe pressure from rapid and widespread habitat destruction, thereby posing a constant threat to local biota (Lawrence, 1997). Globally, the modification of the ecosystem by human action has also threatened biodiversity (Cowlishaw, 1999; Cowlishaw and Dunbar, 2000; Chapman and Peres, 2001). In Africa, deforestation is a major problem, and natural habitat (e.g. lowland rainforest) is destroyed at a relative rate that is higher than those of other tropical regions (Archad et al., 2002). Furthermore, there is a prediction that an unabated continuation of the tropical forest destruction will result in the loss of about three-quarters of original forest cover by the turn of the next century (Archad et al., 2002).

The above issue is particularly serious because the tropics is the world’s highest ranking region in terms of species richness and endemism (Mittermeier et al., 1997; Myers et al., 2000) and more than forty two percent (42%) of its biodiversity could be lost (Sohdi et al., 2004). Biodiversity, however, is the very foundation of human existence as it constitutes the resource upon which virtually everyone depends, its conservation therefore becomes very pertinent (Groves, 2000).

Within the Africa, Nigeria is the most biologically diverse country and ranked second in terms of primate endemism in the world (Mittermeier and Cheney, 1987; Grubb et al., 2000; Egwali et al., 2005). In spite of this important status in primate diversity, the Nigerian environment is presently exposed to forces of species loss and decimation as a result of anthropogenic perturbation resulting from urbanization, agriculture, deforestation, industrialization as well as other sundry activities (Eniang, 2001; Eniang and Ebin, 2002; Egwali et al, 2005). Consequently, the primates, are currently threatened at various levels which are inimical to their continuous survival. According to Egwali et al. (2005), the escalating bush meat crisis has worsened the situation, thus leading to the ‘empty forest syndrome’ as evident in the purported disappearance of Miss Waldron’s red Columbus monkey (Procolobus badius waldronii) from the forest of Ghana and Cote d’ivoire (Angelici et al., 1999; Revkin, 2000). Arising from the foregoing, most of the primate species in the country are either threatened or either classified as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2011).

The Sclater’s guenon (Cercopithecus sclateri Pocock, 1904; local (Itam) name: Adiaha awah Itam) is one of the critically endangered primates of African continent (Egwali et al., 2005). It has been rated among the most threatened of African species and considered as one of the highest priority species for conservation action amongst the African primate taxa (Oates, 1994, Tooze, 1994a, b, 1995). It is also the most threatened of the African guenons (Oates and Anadu, 1989). The Sclater’s species which was upgraded from the subspecies rank of Cercopithecus erythrotis sclateri to a full species status in 1980 is among the latest addition to the Nigerian Species List (Grove, 1993; Grubb et al., 2000). It is an endemic species with restricted range, occurring only West of the lower Niger River and between Niger and Cross River systems (Oates, 1994; Happoid, 1987; Tooze, 1994a).

The guenons have a multi-female/male social group and are actively arboreal and diurnal, ranging widely in search of food. They are highly adaptable and thus their continual survival in degraded habitat within their natural ranges (Egwali et al., 2005). Small isolated population of Cercopithecus sclateri had been reported in the Niger Delta eco-region and adjoining territories (Oates et al., 1992; Oates et al., 2004; Tooze, 1995; Rowe, 1996). The highest and most intact natural habitat where Sclater’s guenon occurs is the Stubb’s Creek Forest Reserve of Akwa Ibom State (Gadsby, 1987).

Discovery Of Sclater’s Guenon In Ikot Uso Akpan Community
Sclater's guenon was initially thought to be extinct until it was found in Nigeria in small scattered populations along the lower course of the Niger River and in the Niger delta (Fleagle, 1999; Nowak, 1999). Only five discrete populations were previously known. Two of which occurred close to villages where they are considered to be sacred and are therefore protected the custom of the people. Each protected group numbers fewer than 250 individuals. The other populations are located in swamp forest on the Niger River floodplain, in Stubbs Creek Forest Reserve in Akwa Ibom State, Anambra State and on the west bank of the Cross River near Utuma village. In addition, a lot of species discovery was made in a community forest in Itam, Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State (Egwali et al., 2005), with an estimated population size of 57~62 individuals. The population of sclater’s guenon which was believed to be recently discovered by science had been in existence in the community and is regarded as a sacred animal worship by people of that community (Ibong, 2002). Ikot Uso Akpan community falls within 28 500 km2 of the species extent of occurrence in the rainforest zone of the country (Figure 1). Much of the remaining forest throughout the species’ range comprises small, often degraded forest fragments within a largely agricultural landscape, swampy areas difficult to farm, or strips of forest along waterways. Populations are known to exist in the states such as Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Imo, Abia and Cross River State (Baker, 2005; 2006; Oates et al., 1992; Oates, 1994; Stewart, 1996; Egwali et al., 2005).

 

 

 

Figure 1 Geographical distribution of Sclater’s guenon (Baker and Olubode, 2008)

 
Conservation of Sclater’s Guenon in Ikot Uso Akpan Community
Sclater's guenons are one of the most endangered primates in Africa. It is classified as Endangered by the IUCN and listed on Appendix II of CITES (Egwali et al, 2005). The combination of an extremely small range in a very populous part of Nigeria has pushed this species to the brink of extinction. The area of Nigeria in which these guenons are found has one of the densest rural populations in Africa (Egwali et al, 2005) and the vast majority of the land area in the region has been converted to agricultural use and non-native plantation. In Ikot Uso Akpan community, a conservation project named “Community Based Wildlife Sanctuary Project” facilitated by the Center for Wetland and Waste Management Studies, University of Uyo was started in the early 2000’s to conserved these pristine species, although it was later abandoned due to inadequate funding (Figure 2).

 

 

Figure 2 Sign post of the abandoned conservation project in the area

 
In 2010, another conservation project which involved the active restoration of the Ikot Uso Akpan community forest, began in late 2010 following a grant from the Global Environment Facility (2010~2012) by a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) – Biodiversity Preservation Center (BPC). The aim of project included educating the locals on the need for conservation of their natural resources and a full scale restoration of the vegetation of the community forest with some indigenous species that will help in conserving the endemic primate species (Cercopithecus sclateri) which habituate the forest fragment. The achievement of the project (Figure 3~8) included:

Community consultations in Obong Itam and Ikot Uso Akpan towards the implementation of the restoration project and construction of a portable water in the two communities;

Two separate Nursery Sites were identified and leased from the community to the Organization in Ikot Uso Akpan;

BPC have successfully raised 7 650 indigenous Seedlings and 1 500 exotic seedling species for enrichment planting;

The stream road was enlarged through clearing and filling of erosion gullies and planted with seedlings through the community assistance;

Organizing of Stakeholder’s forum for the communities concerned;

Distribution of 2 642 seedlings to community members. The seedlings comprise of African Oil Bean (Penthaclethra microphylla), Almond (Terminalia catapa), Mango (Mangifera indica), Pear (Persea americana), African Star Apple (Chrysophylum albidum), Hura cricipithans, African Bread fruit (Treculia africana), Pepper Fruit (Dennettia tripetala), Black pear (Dycroides edulis) and Bush Mango (Irvingia gabonensis);

 

 

Figure 3 Biodiversity Preservation Center (BPC) sign post

 

 


Figure 4 some of the indigenous plant species used in the restoration project

 

 


Figure 5 The research Officer of BPC addressing the gathering

 

 


Figure 6 One of the recipient for collecting and planting the most trees in the community

 

 


Figure 7 A masquerade entertaining the crowd

 

 


Figure 8 Dancers entertaining the crowd

 
Organization of a Tree Planter’s Award ceremony attended by all stakeholders including representatives and dignitaries from government ministries, institutions, etc.

Status Of Sclater’s Guenon In Ikot Uso Akpan Community
Density, abundance and biomass of sclater’s guenon

A data set containing all records from 2002~2012 survey in the study area was used to assess the density, abundance and biomass of the Sclater’s guenon population in the study area (Table 1). Consequently, the population data obtained in 2012 showed an increase in cluster/group density of sclater’s guenon when compared with the data obtained by Egwali et al. (2005). However, the individual population (82 individual/km2), Total population density (57.40 individual/km2), Biomass density (266.5 kg/km2) and Total population biomass (190.35 kg/km2) of Sclater’s guenon obtained for the present study was less than that of Egwali et al. (2005) and Okon (2004) but higher than those obtained by Essien (2008), Udoedu (2004) and Ibong (2002).

 

 

Table 1 Density, abundance and biomass of Sclater’s guenon

 
Population Structure of Sclater’s Guenon
The result in Figure 9 shows the population structure of Sclater’s guenon in the study area obtained over a ten year period. The adult population is greater than the juvenile population over the ten year period (2002~2012). In between the period, the result showed that the adult population in 2005 decreased by 6.9% from the 2002 census data and increased by 14.8% in the 2012 census data. However, over the same period, there was an increase in population of the juvenile Sclater’s guenon in 2005 by 27.27% over the 2002 census data and later decreased by 35.48% in the 2012 census data.

The results from the study area support the hypothesis that the female reproductive success is dependent on habitat quality and group size, implying that increased competition in larger groups is offset by the amounts of food available in the habitat. However, some other studies of primarily folivorous primates have shown that group size has no effect on their reproductive success (Stokes et al., 2003; Robbins et al., 2007; Steenbeek and van Schaik, 2001) although such results are not universal (Borries et al., 2008; Snaith and Chapman, 2008). The quality of Sclater’s guenon habitat in Ikot Uso Akpan has a great influence on the birth, death, immigration, and emigration rates of the population living there (Figure 9). Illegal logging activities (Figure 10 and Figure 11) and rubber plantation establishment (Figure 12) in the study area have impacted negatively on the population of Sclater’s guenon. Consequently, there has been a decrease in the total population of the primate species in 2012 by 3.53% of individuals/km2 from the 2005 population census data. Consequently, there has also been an increase in the number of adult population/km2 by 14.82% and a decrease in juvenile population by 35.48%. This observation implies logging in the study area influences the reproductive capacity of the monkey species resulting in an ageing population of Sclater’s guenon.

 

 

Figure 9 Population structure of Sclater’s guenon in the study area

 

 

 

Figure 10 Logging activities in the study area

 

 

 

Figure 11 Logging activities in a different section of the community forest

 

 

 

Figure 12 A rubber plantation in the study area

 
Conclusion
The impact of indiscriminate logging and agricultural conversion on the forest ecosystem – and thus the endemic primate habitat is severe. Although the area is still covered with small tracts of more or less intact rainforest species, logging has been in operation in the area for some years now. While the felling of trees was supposed to cease in the community forest, it is unfortunate that it had resumed a few years back and in some fragments, this activity continues more or less unabated, claiming ever more of the habitat which is so essential for the primate species and all other local wildlife species. While deforestation in the study area is primarily due to timber extraction and exploitation of other Non-timber forest products, the community’s forests also face additional threats: the oil palm as well as the rubber plantation is also on the increase in the study. Furthermore, increased pressure to find suitable land for crop cultivation has also resulted in the clearance of the forest edge for fertile land to cultivate their crops. The accessibility of areas which was initially difficult has improved considerably including hunting pressure in the area. Consequently, the area has lost 3.53% to 38.55 % of its Sclater’s guenon population in the past 10 years and the population is tending towards an ageing population considering the decrease in number of juvenile population in the study area. It is thus of utmost importance to take appropriate action, aiming to prevent a further decline of primate population.

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