Cross River – Korup – Takamanda (CRIKOT) National Parks (Nigeria)
National Commission for Museums and Monuments
Cross River State
Cross River-Korup-Takamanda (CRIKOT)
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party
Cross River-Korup Takamanda (CRIKOT) National Parks lies between the Cross River in South - Eastern Nigeria and the Sanaga River in Western Cameroon. The area stands out biogeographically because it is a stronghold of remarkable specie richness centred on the ‘Cameroon Highlands’, a discontinuous chain of mountains, plateaux and other uplands of volcanic origin that cover about 14,000 sq km in total, through which the Nigeria-Cameroon border runs in a north-east to south-west directions.
The highly complex landforms of the area include various lowland ecosystems such as coastal mangrove swamps with savannah woodland further inland. These woodlands intrude and grade into forests on rising lands, including some of the highest-stature and most species-rich tropical rain forests on Earth.
The proposed CRIKOT World Heritage Site (WHS) to be listed as a serial transnational property incorporates:
- Oban cluster: Oban Division of Cross River National Park (CRNP) and Ekuri Community Forest
- Okwangwo cluster: Okwangwo Division of CRNP, Mbe Mountains Community Wildlife Sanctuary and Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary
- Korup cluster: Korup National Park and Ejagham Council Forest Reserve
- Takamanda-Mone cluster: Takamanda National Parkand Mone River Forest Reserve
Name(s) of the component part(s)
In Nigeria: Cross River National Park (Oban and Okwangwo Divisions) including associated protected areas of Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Mbe Mountains Community Wildlife Sanctuary and Ekuri Community Forest.
In Cameroon: Korup National Park, Ejagham Council Forest Reserve, Takamanda National Park, Mone River Forest Reserve and Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary.
Description of the component part(s)
Oban cluster (comprising Oban Division of CRNP and Ekuri Community Forest)
Oban Division Of Cross River National Park: The Oban Division (2,800 sq. km) of CRNP lies north-east of the Cross River State capital, Calabar, inside a loop of the Cross River. The road from Calabar to Ekang on the Cameroon border which passes through the Oban Divisionhas attracted human settlement along its corridor. The road is bridged by the Park, and passes between two hilly and mountainous regions that comprised the core areas of the Oban Division, the Oban Hills to the west and the Ikpan Block to the east. The Ikpan hills extend for about 40 km along the Cameroon border, where it is partly contiguous with Korup NP. The socially-defined support zone of the Oban Division includes 39 villages with a total population estimated in 1989 at about 40,000. Most are Ejagham, with related Korup people in two villages, and Ibibio migrants settled in some areas.
Ekuri Community Forest: The Ekuri Community Forest (336 sq. km) is contiguous with the northwest boundary of the Oban Divison. It is jointly managed by the communities of Old Ekuri and New Ekuri and has been managed as a community forest for more than 30 years. The two communities developed a land use plan for the forest and have produced a survey map of their land showing their boundaries with their neighbouring villages.
Description of the Oban Cluster:The Oban Cluster is dominated by evergreen rain forest of lowland to lower montane type, in the altitude range 100-1,000 m. The Oban Cluster is an internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot. It once formed part of one of the African lowland rainforest refugia during the last glacial period and is a centre of species richness particularly for primates, amphibians, butterflies, fish and small mammals. Along with the Korup Cluster, the site contains a quarter of Africa’s primate species including the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti), the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus) and Preuss’s red colobus monkey (Piliocolobus preussi). Along with the Okwangwo Division, it possibly has Nigeria’s largest population of forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis).
The Oban cluster is one of the most diverse ornithological sites in Nigeria, with over 350 bird species recorded in a “still vastly underexplored park”, many unique or almost so to the location. It also contains the remarkable grey-necked Picathartes or rockfowl (Picathartes oreas) also known from 4 other sites in Cross River State and a few sites in Cameroon. The contiguous Oban-Korup forest may be the richest butterfly site in Africa with an estimate of 1,000 or more in total. With regards to plants, preliminary findings include nearly 1,600 plant species (including 141 lichens and 56 mosses, with 77 Nigerian endemics and representative samples in Akampka recording over 128 tree species per hectare.
Korup Cluster (comprising Korup National Park and Ejagham Council Forest Reserve)
Korup National Park: The Park (2,259 sq. km) starts about 50 km inland from the Bight of Biafra on the border with Nigeria on which it shares 15 km of its frontier with CRNP. When it was established there were six villages inside Korup National Park. One one of the villages(Ikondokondo) was relocated in 2000 but other resettlement plans have since been put on hold. There are 23 additional villages within 3 km of the Park boundary (in the ‘peripheral zone’), and the total population of these and the villages within the Park is approximately 2,700.
Ejagham Council Forest Reserve: Ejagham Council Forest Reserve (748.5 sq. km) is contiguous with the northern boundary of Korup and also shares a border with Cross River National Park (Oban Division) on the border.
Description of the Korup Cluster: Most the Korup Cluster lies within an elevation of 120 to 850 m, lower (about 50 m) in the southern section, rising steadily northwards with increasingly rugged terrain to its highest point at Mt. Yuhan (or Juahan) (1,079 m) near the old site of the now relocated Ikondokondo village. Two main types of lowland forest dominate the Korup Cluster, with high species diversity. This Cluster has been more extensively studied than the Oban Cluster, and matches its extremely high floristic diversity, including at least 1,700 species.Itis known to have the highest diversity of reptiles and amphibians of any single locality in tropical Africa (comparable to that of the most diverse Neotropical sites), and contains 92 amphibian and 83 reptilespecies, a number of them endemic to the area. Along with the Oban Cluster, it is the most diverse lowland site in Africa for birds, with a total of 410 species in 53 families.
The Korup Cluster and Oban Cluster, contains one quarter of all Africa’s primate species, and also many species that occur widely throughout the Guineo-Congolian forest. These includethe forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and at least 55 bat and 47 rodentspecies. About 140 species of fish are found in the Korup area, distributed among the Upper Cross, the Akpe-Yafe/Upper Ndian, and the Lower Ndian river systems, each with a different fish fauna. Finally, the Korup Cluster is known to be home to at least 179 species of dragonfly, many of them endemic, and the butterfly fauna. Together with the neighbouring CRNP in Nigeria, it is the richest butterfly area in Africa with well over 1,000 lowland rain forest species, equivalent to 6% of all butterflies described worldwide and almost one third of all species known from continental tropical Africa.
Okwangwo Cluster (comprising of Okwangwo Division of CRNP, Mbe Mountains Community Wildlife Sanctuary and Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary)
Okwangwo Division: The Okwangwo Division (920 sq. km) of CRNP is located south-east of Obudu Town, encircled by the Cross River to the south, the Ikom-Obudu Highway to the west, and the Cameroon frontier to the east. A total of 66 villages comprise the (socially-defined) support zone of the division, with a total estimated population of about 36,000 people, most of whom are Boki-speakers of the Eastern Boki group although the ethnography is complex.
Mbe Mountains Community Wildlife Sanctuary:The Mbe Mountains Community Wildlife Sanctuary (85 sq.km) lies immediately west of the Okwangwo Division and is managed by 9 villages. It forms an important habitat corridor linking Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary to the west with the Okwangwo Division of Cross River National Park and Cameroon to the east. It has a resident population of approximately 25-30 Cross River gorillas.
Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary: Created out of the northern section of the Afi Forest Reserve, the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary (104 sq. km) is surrounded by 16 villages and is managed by the Cross River State Forestry Commission. It contains a population of approximately 25 Cross River gorillas as well as important populations of drills and Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee.
Description of the Okwangwo Cluster :Terrain in the Okwangwo Cluster rises northwards and eastwards from the surrounding lowlands, from about 150 m elevation to over 1,700 m on the Obudu Plateau. The most prominent feature is the high mountainous country thatextends along its northern edge from the Obudu Plateau to the Sankwala Mountains. These mountains, which rise to 1,920 m (Mt. Koloishe), are the western edge of the Bamenda Highlands which lie predominantly in Cameroon. Lowland forests exist up to 500 m, mid-elevation forests up to about 700 m, with montane forests going up to 1,250 m. Below an elevation of about 500 m, the vegetation is an example of Guineo-Congolian high forest growing in a strongly seasonal climate. Most of the division lies wholly within the forest zone, but the northern limits of the park are within the forest-savannah eco zone where change between forest and savannah depends delicately on the balance between the physical factors of soil, climate and elevation, and the human factor of land use.
Biodiversity in the Okwangwo Cluster reflects the patchy diversity of ecosystem types, the existence of an intact ecocline (i.e. a continuous and complete progression in habitats - now a very rare occurrence in Africa) between about 150 and 1,700 m in elevation, and the montane forests at the upper end of this ecocline that provide a refuge for restricted-range species, including about 60 species of birds that occur nowhere else in Nigeria. The division contains 17 species of non-human primate; nearly a third of Africa’s total, including the critically endangered Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti), Preuss’s guenon (Allochrocebus preussi) and drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus), along with many other species such as the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) that suggest close similarity with the wildlife community of Takamanda.
Takamanda-MoneCluster (comprising of Takamanda National Park, Mone River Forest Reserve and Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary)
Takamanda National Park: Contiguous with the Okwangwo Division of CRNP in Nigeria, Takamanda National Park (696 sq. km) is in the northern-most corner of Southwest Province of Cameroon, north-east of the Cross River Valley. The Nigerian border forms the Park’s northern and north-western boundaries.There are three villages within Takamanda NP, five more are located along the park boundary, along additional outlying villages. The 43 villages within and around the park were estimated to house nearly 16,000 people in the year 2000.
Mone River Forest Reserve: This important forest area (558 sq. km) is located directly southeast of Takamanda National Park. Unlike Takamanda, Mone River Forest Reserve does not contain village enclaves.
Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary: Nine villages surround Kagwene Mountain (19 sq. km). It lies further east of both Takamanda National Park and the Mone River Forest Reserve and is home to about 30 Cross River gorillas. Research on Kagwene Mountain began in 2002, and in 2008 the sanctuary was gazetted, offering it legal protection for the first time and thus reducing its vulnerability.
Description of the Takamanda-Mone Cluster: Terrain in Takamanda-Mone is rolling in the lowland areas, but rises sharply to an altitude of 1,500 m in the northern part of the park, where slopes are extremely steep. Small hills, up to 725 m in elevation, lie to the north of the Obonyi villages along the border with Nigeria. The hills separating the villages of Kekpane and Basho are similar in elevation, rising to between 600 and 700 m.Takamanda NP contains diverse forest formations influenced by topography and rainfall, along with a sharp gradation from lowland forest to montane forest with associated floristic variations.
Takamanda-Mone is better known biologically than the Okwangwo Division, and at the latest count the flora comprised 953 species and 113 plant families. The Park’s diverse habitats support a rich reptile and amphibian fauna of 75 species in 15 families, representing nearly a third of Cameroon’s species, of which four are local endemics. Thebird count of 313 species (Cameroon’s second highest)led to the classification of the Park as an Important Bird Area (IBA). There are 22 large mammal species, including the Cross River gorilla, Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, drills and other primates of conservation concern, along with forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), red river hog (Potamochoerus porcus porcus), and forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus). The fish fauna is consistent with the diversity of the Cross River system, the most species-rich of any comparable West African river basin, and there are at least 67 dragonfly and 111 butterfly species.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The CRIKOT National Parks region lies between the Cross River in eastern Nigeria and the Sanaga River in western Cameroon. This includes various lowland ecosystems including some of the highest-stature and most species-rich tropical rain forests on Earth as well as savannah habitat and montane forest at higher altitudes. The proposed CRIKOT National Parks World Heritage Site would be built around three national parks that together safeguard the region’s heartland: The Cross River National Park in Nigeria comprising the Oban and Okwangwo divisions and the two National Parks of Korup and Takamanda in Cameroon.
Nomination of the area as a World Heritage Site is based on its Outstanding Universal Value as defined under Criteria (ix) and (x) of the Operational Guidelines of the World Heritage Convention.
Nomination as a serial, transnational property is further based on conservation actions involving the Oban and Okwangwo areas in Nigeria and the Korup and Takamanda areas in Cameroon that date back many decades. Although there have beenpolitical obstacles to cross-border collaboration in the 1960s-2000s, dialogue at the field level continued. A new phase of fuller cooperation became possible after 2006, and since then there have been joint leadership statements and working arrangements that represent much progress in addressing all the basic elements of trans-frontier conservation. This has created an unprecedented opportunity to undertake cross-border conservation and sustainable development in the region. The initiatives concerned, all recognized five main reasons why the region is best considered as a single, linked landscape management unit, rather than as a succession of disparate elements.
- Catchment links reflect the importance of the Oban-Korup and Okwangwo-Takamanda complexes in safeguarding water flow, and providing disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation functions by protecting downstream areas against droughts, floods, mud-slides, soil erosion, and sedimentation.
- Wildlife links reflect the importance of habitat connectivity for the population sizes of wild organisms, and for the processes that keep their populations viable (such as gene flow) adding to their collective value as a biodiversity refuge.
- Human links reflect the region’s role as the source of origin of the Bantu language families that spread across sub-Saharan Africa from about 3,000 years ago, the way that language groups, tribes, clans, families and networks of trade, familiarity and mutual obligation across the international frontier.
- Management links reflect the emergence since 2008 of an increasingly enthusiastic joint process of strengthening transboundary conservation between Cameroon and Nigeria by finding practical, cooperative solutions to the full range of challenges involved in it.
- Conservation links reflect the use of catchment, wildlife, human and management links in Cross-Korup-Takamanda to promote ecological integrity, evolutionary continuity, economic sustainability, and environmental education throughout the region.
Inscription of CRIKOT National Parks on the World Heritage List would be an appropriate measureto sustain these gains and enhance further progress in these areas. The boundaries of all the parks are reasonably secure at present, since major conflicting land uses and conversions have been resisted or are not currently proposed.
There are, however, always the risks of planning failure, implementation error, or unforeseen impacts from road-building, plantation or other development schemes that approach park boundaries, as they are doing increasingly, and especially in the Oban-Korup area. There is also a need to build and protect links between natural habitats (such as forest corridors, bridges, stepping stones and riverine strips), and to take all the institutional, educational and enforcement actions that combine to make such protections permanent which is what this inscription onto the World Heritage List would help to achieve.
Criterion (ix): The region is believed to have been continuously moist during the Quaternary ice ages, so it acted as a refuge for species adapted to ever-wet conditions which were then able to re-colonise surrounding areas when moist conditions returned. This provided continuity of evolutionary processes such as adaptation, speciation and co-evolution, and allowed the area to retain many species that disperse only slowly if at all, in addition to the ancestors of species that were able to travel more easily. The result is that Cross-Korup-Takamanda is both highly distinctive, with many taxa that occur only there or around its edges, and also very rich in species.
Criterion (x): The region is home to at least 3,500 plant species, or around half of all plants that occur only in Tropical West Africa, a richer butterfly fauna than anywhere else in Africa, several hundred reptile and amphibian species, and the highest density of forest-restricted bird and mammal species in Africa; many of these species are endemic or near-endemic to the region. Cross-Korup-Takamanda is a stronghold for regionally endemic non-human primates. There are eleven of these in total. Seven are found only between the Cross and the Sanaga:
- Five endemic monkey sub-species: including Preuss’s guenon (Allochrocebus preussi preussi) and drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus leucophaeus)
- One endemic monkey species (Preuss’s red colobus - Piliocolobus preussi)
- One endemic ape subspecies (Cross River Gorilla – Gorilla gorilla diehli)
There are also another four other regional endemic primates including the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti), pallid galago (Euoticus pallidus ssp. talboti) and Allen’s galago (Sciurocheirus alleni ssp. cameroonensis); and the angwantibo (Arctocebus calabarensis). These levels of species richness and endemism are recognised internationally and contribute to giving Cross-Korup-Takamanda the highest possible global priorityin terms of investments to conserve biodiversity.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
The boundaries of all the parks and the other protected areas in the respective clusters are reasonably secure at present, in the sense that major conflicting land uses and conversions have been resisted or are not currently proposed. There are, however, always the risks of planning failure, implementation error, or unforeseen impacts from road-building, plantation or other development schemes that approach park boundaries, especially in the Oban-Korup area where opposition to a proposed road project has forced the government to review its stand.These parks still remain outstanding examples of intact equatorial conservation areas. Howeverever-present threatscould irreversibly damage the ecosystem if thesechallenges - hunting, gathering of forest products, fishing, logging, farming, fire, infrastructure construction, plantations and mining - are not adequately addressed.
Justification of the selection of the component part(s) in relation to the future nomination as a whole
The Oban and Korup clusters which include the Oban Divion of CRNP and Korup National Park together with Ejagham Council Forest Reserve and the Ekuri Community Forest contain some of the richest rainforest in all of Africa. Along with its extremely high floristic diversity, it is known to have the highest diversity of reptiles and amphibians in any single locality in tropical Africa (comparable to that of the most diverse Neotropical sites). The Oban-Korup Cluster is also the most diverse lowland site in Africa for birds. It contains one quarter of all Africa’s primate species, and also many species that occur widely throughout the Guineo-Congolian forest such as the forest elephant. It is also one of Africa’s richest sites for bats, rodents, fish, dragonflies and butterflies.
While all Western Gorillas are critically endangered, the Cross River gorilla is the most endangered of the African apes. A 2014 survey estimates less than 250 mature individuals left in the wild. The Cross River gorilla (G. gorilla diehli) is the most western and northern form of gorilla, and is restricted to the forested hills and mountains of the Cameroon-Nigeria border region at the headwaters of the Cross River. The Afi-to-Kagwene landscape includes 11 separate populations living across the Okwangwo and Takamanda clusters which include the Okwangwo Division of CRNP together Afi Mountains Wildlife Sanctuary, Mbe Mountains Wildlife Sanctuary, Takamanda National Park, Mone Forest Reserve, and Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary. All these areas across a 12,000 km² range contain over 90% of the entire global population of the Critically Endangered Cross River gorillas because of its rugged terrain and high altitude which keeps it secluded from human interference.
Comparison with other similar properties
Looking at the list of natural and cultural transboundary World Heritage Sites, the property could be compared with the following located in topical moist forest:
- Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve. Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea. Inscription: 1981, 1982, criteria: ix, x
- Sangha Trinational. Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo. Inscription: 2012, criteria: ix, x
- Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves/La Amistad National Park. Costa Rica, Panama. Inscription: 1983, criteria: vii, viii, ix, x
However none of these are located in areas associated with pleistocene refugia. The idea that certain tropical moist forests remained as such during ice ages while surrounding areas dried outprofers a stronger explanation of species richness and endemism patterns seen in the three main tropical forest areas in South America, Africa and Asia, insofar as relevant patterns, palaeoclimates and other factors such as sea levels are understood. Alongside other approaches, such as those using ‘biodiversity hotspots, restricted-range bird areas, centres of plant diversity, protected area system reviews, and the identification of ‘megadiversity’ countries, it helps to rationalise the distribution of investment to biodiversity conservation priorities at a time of mass extinction and climate change.
With present knowledge, Ice Age refuge analysis draws attention to certain areas in and around the Amazon Basin (particularly the Guiana Shield, parts of Colombia and Perú, and a series of sites south of the Amazon River), Africa (particularly Cross-Korup-Takamanda and parts of the Congo Basin), and South-East Asia (particularly the Malay Peninsula in Malaysia, parts of Sumatra in Indonesia, and parts of Australia), among others, where biodiversity must be preserved if the products of ultra-long term evolutionary processes are to be retained.
A number of individual natural sites in these locations, although not in the Cross River-Korup-Takamanda region (CRIKOT), are already inscribed on the World Heritage List. Due to their size and spread, two of these are listed as serial properties :
- The Gondwana Rainforests of Australia. Inscription: 1986, criteria viii, ix, x
- Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra. Inscription: 2004, criteria vii, ix, x
However, so far there are no serial transnational sites involving tropical moist forests at presentlocated in places that are called pleistocene regugia. The inscription of Cross-Korup-Takamanda would therefore serve to correct a number of significant imbalance in the List, by acknowledging the importance of Ice Age biodiversity refuges in Africa, by recognising the significance of the Cross-Korup-Takamanda region in particular and by promoting the idea of cooperation between countries in managing natural phenomena rooted in events that far pre-date the origin of humanity.