Endangered Species in Deng Deng-Belabo Conservation Corridor

This area is home to at least 40 species of large
mammal(Diangha,2015)  among the species,
the most northern population of western lowland gorillas inhabit this area and
occurs at higher density than in most sites in the East Region of Cameroon
(Ambahe et al. 2011). A population survey conducted around the project area
revealed that   more than 300 western
lowland gorillas and 600 chimpanzees live within the National Park (Ambahe et
al. 2011, Stautner and Delaney 2011).

The area also harbors many water dwelling mammals,
hippopotamus and swamp otter which are rare species in Cameroon.  In addition to mammals, sixty species of fish
belonging to 16 families and mostly Mormyridae and the Cyprinidae are common in
the Lom and Pangar Rivers (COTCO 2012). The park host three important bird
species namely the African gray parrots, Bates’swaever and Grey- necked rock
fowls. The forest flora is however, dominated by commercially valuable
Triplochiton scleroxylon, which are heavily targeted for exploitation
throughout their range in the east region.

Main environmental
threats in project area

1.            Lack of
good governance: The presence of porous government of Cameroon forestry and
wildlife policies in the region have granted permission of hotly contested open
bush meat markets in the region. This has led to the high demand of bush meat
in the area.

2.            Population
influx: The presence of Economic Operators and external development bodies such
as Cameroon Oil Transportation Company (COTCO), Electricity Development
Cooperation (EDC), refugees from Central African Republic as well as forestry
exploitation companies have together led to a seasonal influx of people into
the project area.

3.            Forest
conversion to farm: This has cause encroachment in the forest and the
conversion of forest into farmlands. More so communities lack knowledge of
improve agricultural techniques so they tend to move to new lands for
cultivation abandoning the old farms (shifting Cultivation).

4.            The
construction of roads by clearing and opening of large forest tracks and
construction of settlement camps for workers has also led to severe
biodiversity losses.

Un-rational fishing: Fishing is being done seasonally using
unsustainable method with small net sizes that collect even the young fish. The
different methods used are; hooks, bottom set gillnets and basket traps.

5.            Increased
exploitation of timber resources both for commercial and local consumption is
also exerting pressure on the area.

6.            Suppressed
and marginalized local economy. This is of very serious concern and the
principal driver behind rampant and rapid forest conversion to farms and
poaching given that locals earn less than 1USD per day. Addressing the drivers
of the suppressed economy and poverty will substantially address the major
threats to conservation in this conservation complex.

All of the above threats exist to some degree in the actual
project sites and threaten to increase fragmentation of the forest blocks
linking DDNP to Belabo Council Forest. 
Without providing an urgent solution to protecting the DDNP – Belabo
corridor, endangered species within the NP including over 400 western lowland
gorillas and greater numbers of other IUCN Red list species (chimpanzees,
elephants, etc) may encounter difficulties in migrating southwards to other
protected forests contributing to the occurrence of inbreeding and potentially
leading to increased human – wildlife conflicts.

Furthermore, the cycle of poverty in the villages associated
to the proposed CFRs has led to increased exploitation of forest resources.
Local people harvest wildlife species such as Pangolin, duikers,Red River Hog
and to a smaller extend apes, as a source of protein in their diet and also for
commercial purposes to increase house hold income. Timber species are harvested
for commercial purpose, construction and furniture. Non timber forest products
such as Vocanga Africana are also harvested in an unsustainable fashion.

The goal of the project is to preserve good quality forest habitats between two already existing protected areas (: Deng Deng National Park and Belabo Council Forest) for the maintenance and/or enhancement of suitable conditions for the movement of endangered species and prevent occurrences of inbreeding.  Specifically, this project will strengthen the management of the Deng Deng National Park by effectively managing the two community forests created via simple management plans developed in full consultation with the local communities and the local ministries as well as other stakeholders.

As Cameroon government backtracks on logging concession of Ebo Forest: what next?

-Ebo forest spans 200,000ha

-The forest is one
of the few pristine forest in Central Africa located in Southwestern Cameroon,
precisely in the Littoral Region of Cameroon

Ebo forest is home to the critically endangered
Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees, western gorillas, drills, forest elephants etc.

-40 indigenous
communities including the Banen tribe consider Ebo forest as their ancestral
home.

Conservators in and out of Cameroon heaved
a sigh of relief after the government of Cameroon reversed her decision to give
68,385
ha of the biodiversity rich-Ebo forest for
logging purposes.

On July 23, 2020, the Prime Minister of
Cameroon signed a decree approving the logging of 68,385 ha of the virgin Ebo
forest. This decision which conservators described as a death sentence to the
Western gorillas, Cameroon –Nigeria Chimpanzees and a host of other endangered
species and plants caused a lot of outrage across the globe. The government of Cameroon
maintained that the decision will bring wealth and job opportunities to the
local communities. It was reported that the Prime Minister of Cameroon ignored
the aspirations of the 40 local communities that border the biodiversity rich
Ebo Forest. 

In an Interview the Cameroon’s minister of
Forestry and Wildlife, Jules
Doret Ndongo maintains that the Cameroon has “enough” protected
areas and the decree doesn’t mean that all trees will be cut down … the United
Nations obliges countries to keep at least 12% of their national territory as
protected areas; Cameroon is already at 30%,”. “Logging” the minister continues “is governed by
instruments that allow for the protection of biodiversity in general and
wildlife in particular … which highlights the ‘Government’s ecological
awareness’ and its concern for the preservation of the country’s wildlife
resources,”

The good
news

On August 11, 2020, the government of Cameroon in
a dramatic U-turn annulled the decision to log Ebo forest. This decision was
welcomed by many, amongst which was the CEO of the Environment and Rural
Development Foundation (ERuDeF), Louis Nkembi.

The CEO of ERuDeF who has been working for more
than two decades in protecting endangered wildlife and plant species described
the decision as a “big win for conservators”. Hear him “I welcome Cameroon’s
government’s decision to annul logging concession of Ebo forest. The decision
means saving the last endangered Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees, Western gorillas
and a host of other endangered species which my organization has been working
for more than two decades to protect. Species are increasingly loosing their
habitats. Habitat fragmentation continue to lead to inbreeding which makes
species genetically weak” According to the CEO of ERuDeF, the government of
Cameroon together with conservation organizations and the local communities
around the forest need to develop an inclusive land use planning that will guarantee
the future conservation of this pristine forest. It should be noted that Ebo
forest   holds an estimated 35 million tons of carbon.

What
next?

While conservationists continue to celebrate
their recent victory, there are worries that these celebrations may only be
momentary. There is a need for an inclusive land use planning in this key
biodiversity hotspot in Cameroon.  The
government of Cameroon must take practical steps in resettling those who were displaced
from this forest decade ago as a result of war that ensued after the
independence of Cameroon in the early 60s. The Banen people for example have
launched a campaign to return their roots-Ebo forest. “We have always lived in
harmony with this forest and its diversity, but people just want to make money…
Much of our history can still be found in the forest”, Chief Victor Yetina, a
ruler in the Banen clan is quoted as saying to The Guardian. The “what next?” question must be answered now or
never…#savetheeboforest.

Nlonako –Muanenguba Mountains under severe Human Pressure: Biodiversity vulnerable

Nlonako
–Muanenguba Mountain represents one of the most fragile ecosystems in Cameroon
harboring some of the worlds threaten fauna species that appear on the IUCN RED
list. Most of these animals are endemic to the area hence making them been
threaten of extinction by the irrational behavior of the local communities in
the landscape. Nlonako –Muanenguba Mountain serves as a homeland to key species
such as amphibians (particularly the goliath frog), birds and pangolins (white
bellied and giant pangolin).

Resent
publications have proven that there is a drastic drop in the encounter rate of
these species thus indicating that their population sizes are in a decrease.
This is associated to the fact that human pressure in the landscape is highly
influencing the growth of and reproduction of these animals as most of their
habitats are been destroyed for farmlands, species like parrots been hunted for
pet trade, while pangolins and goliath frogs are harvested for home consumption
and commercial purposes (ERuDeF, 2016).

Other
indirect factors indicate that threat to wildlife in this landscape is as a
result of poor law enforcement with regards to wildlife conservation, local
communities lack the capacity for sustainable wildlife protection, and they
lack the awareness concerning wildlife and nature protection.

 The
sustainable use of wildlife resources has been the priority of government since
independence. As a result, Cameroon is a signatory to relevant international,
regional and sub-regional conventions and treaties, with a clear legal and
institutional framework to guide the use of animals. These signatories include;
the Convention on Conservation of Nature and
Natural Resources, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), Convention on the Conservation of Biological
Diversity (CBD, 1992).

 In line with Cameroon government to promote
the conservation of threatened biodiversity and ecosystems, the Environment and
Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) seeks to conserve biodiversity and
protect the fragile ecosystem of the Nlonako- Muanenguba Mountain. We have
practically involved local communities in the conservation of these threaten
fauna through capacity building initiatives and awareness raising campaigns.

Discover how pastoralists are highly involved in the Mount Bamboutos Initiative

Since the onset of the Mount Bamboutos initiative in 2018, ERuDeF together with her local and international partners have been working towards getting everyone involved. One of of the ethnic groups that have been highly involved in the Mount Bamboutos Initiative project are the Bororos (pastoralists). Considered to be reserved and very highly isolated people, the Bororos have been one of the most active ethnic groups as far as the Mount Bamboutos Initiative is concerned. The Bororos are considered as settlers in the Mount Bamboutos landscape. Despite their “settler” statues, the Bororos have taken upon themselves to restore the Mount Bamboutos ecosystem.

The continuous conversion of pastoral land into agricultural land by farmers have robbed this group of people of their grazing land. They are not only losing grazing land but they have little or no water especially in the dry season for their animals to drink. The lack of water is as a result of the continuous cutting down of trees in the Mount Bamboutos.

There has been tension between Bororos and farmers as a result of the continuous conversion of pastoral land by farmers for agricultural purposes. They remain in the losing side since they are the minority.

Sali Manu is a grazer and a representative of the Bororos in Bangang village, West region of Cameroon. He owns 60 cows, 15 horses and 30 sheep. The father of 13 is very worried at the rate at which the Mount Bamboutos is being degraded. Sali, as he is fondly called says his animals haven’t  enough water to drink in the rainy season talk less of the dry season. “When I was young, I and my late father had enough land to graze our cattle on. Now the situation is different, we don’t have enough land to grace our cattle since every place is gradually being transformed to farm lands. During the dry season we are forced to walk long distances with our animals to get water. Usually we go to Santchou, some 6 kms away from Bangang village where am based”. “I will take part in every tree planting exercise on the Mount Bamboutos”, the 40-year-old grazer continues “in order to guarantee a good future for my 13 kids and preserve our long standing tradition of grazing”. Sali Manu just like many other Bororos want a participatory land use system in which everyone has a say. “I am very happy with the participatory land use planning system in which ERuDeF is in the process of developing and implementing for the entire landscape.”  Sali Manu said with a broad smile on his face.

Sali Manu carrying trees on his back and hands to planting site

Nuhu Barkido is one of the pioneers of the Mount Bamboutos Initiatve. The 25 years old and and his friend Adamu Adamu, 26 have been very active as far as the 2020 tree planting is concerned. They have all answered present in all the tree planting exercise in their Bangang village. “when I was young I used to enjoy the natural beauty of the Mount Bamboutos. Now the situation has changed, the beauty of the mountain has all gone and what one can see now are farmlands doted here and there. We don’t have enough land to graze our cattle. We are experiencing absolute water shortages. We don’t have enough water to drink talk less of our cattle Nuhu lamented.  “At times we are referred to as “strangers” irrespective of the fact that we were born and bred here in Bangang village. We are not bothered by this appellation, what bother us most is the state of the Mount Bamboutos. We are determined to reverse the presnt situation that is why am actively involved in tree planted”. Adamu added.

Adamu Adamu (left) and Nuhu Barkido (Right)

Dada Hayatou is one of the few who lived the glorious days of the Mount Bamboutos. The 77 years who is also a mother of 10 has been taken part in all tree planting exercise since the beginning of the Mount Bamboutos Initiative project despite her ill health , 2020 not being an exception. “I am one of the very few that enjoyed the rich biodiversity of this Mountain. We had enough water for our cattle since all water catchments were intact; not t now that trees around water catchments are all leveled down. Mount Bamboutos is no longer the mountain I used to know. I am dedicating the rest of my life to the Mount Bamboutos Initiative project. I wish I could live  for another 15 years to see how this wonderful project will end ” Dada Hayatou said.

Dada Hayatou (left) during tree planting in Mekoup, Bangang water catchment

Hadija Dada, 55 is also very involved in the project. She is has 30 cows 50 sheep and and 10 goats. “I have taken it upon myself to be part of every tree planting exercise in my village, Bangang. My wish is to see the Mountain come back into its glorious days”, hadija Dada said.

Hadija Dada (left) and Ahminatou (right) holding a tree during tree planting

It should be noted that the Mount Bamboutos Initiative is a project to restore 35000ha of the degraded Mount Bamboutos ecosystem through the planting of 15 million trees. The Project that was launched in 2018 will run for 15 years. Its pilot phase ends in 2021.