Activists and affected communities in Nigeria’s Cross River state continue to protest plans to build a major highway cutting through farmland and forest that’s home to threatened species such as the Cross River gorilla.The federal government ordered a slew of measures to minimize the impact of the project, but two years later it remains unclear whether the developers have complied, even as they resume work.Environmentalists warn of a “Pandora’s box” of problems ushered in by the construction of the highway, including illegal deforestation, poaching, land grabs, micro-climate change, erosion, biodiversity loss and encroachment into protected areas.They’ve called on the state government to pursue alternatives to the new highway, including investing in upgrading existing road networks. OKUNI, Nigeria — The bulldozers returned to the forests of Cross River state in southeastern Nigeria in January. Their metal blades resumed tearing down rainforest, rubber and cocoa plantations, homes and farms to make way for a six-lane superhighway, dispossessing thousands of villagers and threatening precious habitat for endangered species along the route. The original route, proposed by Cross River Governor Ben Ayade in 2015, would have slashed more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) through intact forest. Half of this length was to have run through a national park sheltering the critically endangered Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli); the proposal claimed an astonishing 20–kilometer (12-mile) buffer on either side of the route. The original superhighway route would have run through 115 kilometers (71 miles) of forest inside the national park and nearby community-controlled forests. Map courtesy of WCS Environmentalists, NGOs and local communities have fiercely resisted the project, launching a series of legal challenges and numerous petitions to state and national authorities. Environmental impact assessments for the project have been rejected three times by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment for failing to meet required standards; the assessments have been found to be comprehensively inadequate — missing baseline data, engineering specifications, and required environmental safeguards — as well as failing to properly consult affected communities. In July 2017, the ministry mandated the state government to reduce the buffer to 70 meters (230 feet), and to reroute the road away from the boundaries of the national park and community forests, among dozens of other conditions. The ministry also called for concrete plans for resettlement and livelihood restoration for affected villagers, and mitigation of potential negative impacts on biodiversity. Compliance with these requirements should have been published for public scrutiny before work at the site resumed this year. If this work has been done, none of it has been made public, though the road’s route is understood to have been changed to avoid driving through the heart of Cross River National Park. Nor has Governor Ayade’s administration clarified where funding for the project will come from. In February, Ayade’s administration wrote to the state assembly seeking approval for a massive loan of 648.87 billion naira ($1.8 billion) to fund the new highway. More than 1,500 plant species are found in the park, of which 77 are endangered. Besides the namesake gorilla, fewer than 300 of which are believed to remain in the wild, the region is also home to forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), pangolins, slender-snouted crocodiles (Mecistops cataphractus), and primates including the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti), drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus), and Preuss’s red colobus monkey (Piliocolobus preussi), which is found only in the park’s Oban division and just across the border in Cameroon’s Korup National Park.