Afi River Forest Reserve is a large forest in the south-east of the country situated immediately west of the Cross River National Park—Okwangwo division (NG010). The terrain is mountainous and much dissected by rivers and streams; the scenery is spectacular. The highest point is Afi Mountain, in the centre-north of the reserve. The vegetation is Guinea–Congo lowland rainforest and characteristic tree species include Berlinia confusa, Coula edulis, Hannoa klaineana, Klainedoxa gabonensis, Khaya ivorensis and Lophira alata. The reserve is important for production forestry, tourism development and wildlife conservation. There is also cultivation in parts of the reserve, including bananas, cocoa, kola and coco-yam (the main staple of the area); cassava and yam are also grown but, because of low fertility, after about three years the land is abandoned to fallow for up to 15 years. Average annual rainfall varies between 2,000–2,500 mm, with the dry season lasting from November to February.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The avifauna of the reserve is poorly known. However, significant populations of Picathartes oreas occur and probably breed in the reserve, while a number of nationally uncommon species are known to occur, including Tigriornis leucolophus, Urotriorchis macrourus, Spizaetus africanus, Himantornis haematopus, Columba iriditorques, Bubo poensis, Indicator maculatus, Baeopogon clamans, Neocossyphus fraseri and Apalis nigriceps. In addition, Telacanthura melanopygia, hitherto considered merely a rare vagrant to the country has been recorded.
Non-bird biodiversity: Among mammals, the primates Mandrillus leucophaeus (EN), Cercopithecus erythrotis (VU) and Gorilla gorilla (EN) all occur, the latter in the hills in the north of the reserve, and signs of Loxodonta africana cyclotis (EN) have been seen in the south.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The reserve has suffered from logging, forest clearance for agriculture and hunting. Large areas have been subject to dry-season bush fires, including a severe one in 1989. There are two major concessions for timber production by companies that operate in the north and south of the reserve. The attendant fragmentation and degradation will have serious consequences for the conservation value of the area. There have been proposals to upgrade this important forest to a Game Reserve or even to incorporate it into the Cross River National Park. If properly managed, the reserve is capable of the sustained production of timber, rattan cane and other forest products. Pandrillus, a local NGO, has established and, with assistance from NCF and FFI, runs a ‘Drill Ranch’ in the reserve. It is a rehabilitation and breeding centre for endangered primates, especially Mandrillus leucophaeus and Pan troglodytes. ‘Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary’ was gazetted by the Cross River State Government in May 2000.