End the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon

On the 24th of October 2020, 7 school children of Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy, Kumba were killed by alleged militias fighting to restore the independence of Anglophone Cameroon. This brutal killing did not only signal a bad twist in the unfolding of the Anglophone crisis but an urgent need to end the crisis by all means.  The Kumba Massacre is just one of the many brutal killings that have taken place in Anglophone Cameroon since the Anglophone Crisis started back in 2016.

Before the Kumba massacre, at least 13civilians were killed in a village called Ngarbuh, Northwest Region of Cameroon on the 14th of February 2020. After investigations, it was established that the killings were perpetrated by the Cameroon military. The casualties keep pilling, with no one having the slightest idea of when the crisis will end.

Following the Kumba Massacre, The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) organized a press conference on the 30th of October 2020 to make her position known with regards to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon. ERuDeF also used the occasion to sympathize with families of the victims of the brutal killings in Kumba. Black Friday campaigns was equally instituted by ERuDeF to mourn all the victims of the Anglophone crisis.

ERuDef staff mourn victims of Kumba Massacre

Civilians, especially women and children continue to pay the ultimate price as the 4-year long conflict continues to escalate. The UNHCR says there are over 60.000 Anglophone Cameroonians living in Nigeria as refugees. About 3000 have lost their lives and some have sort for refuge in bushes, living under horrible conditions. UNICEF reports that at least 600,000 children of school going age in Anglophone Cameroon are out of school as a result of the crisis. These figures are not only disturbing but make us to wonder what the future hold for these kids who are out of school as a result of a conflict they didn’t even start.

The President/CEO of ERuDeF, Louis Nkembi is quoted as saying “I think this is the time for our leaders to stand up and say enough is enough; not by using a military solution, not by making speeches but by sitting on the table and talking with those who are involved” Indeed it is only through dialogue that the crisis rocking Anglophone Cameroon can die a natural death.

Louis Nkembi, President/CEO

We at ERuDeF are very concerned given the consequences this crisis has on the biodiversity of Anglophone Cameroon. Since the outbreak of the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon, key biodiversity hotspots and protected areas have been besieged by both the Anglophone Separatist fighters and regular state forces. It is estimated that over 14 biodiversity hotspots and protected areas have been greatly affected with the day to day worsening of the crisis. Affected areas range from the Kimbi Fungom National Park, Kom-Wum Reserve, Oku Plantlife Sanctuary, Kwagwane Gorilla Sanctuary through the Tofala Hills Wildlife Sanctuary, Njoajwi- Fotabong III Essoh Attah Wildlife Sanctuary, Banya-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary, to the Korup National Park and Mt. Cameroon National Park. Beside the armed groups and the regular state forces, over 35000 IDPs have found refuge inside these secured biodiversity areas thus forcing the state rangers to relocate to the urban areas

With the unfortunate unfolding of this rather prolonged crisis, we at ERuDeF calls the government of Cameroon to call for a more inclusive dialogue to end the crisis once and for all. This call does not however undermine the efforts made by the government of Cameroon to end the crisis. We reiterate that the military solution will never end the crisis. Killings, kidnappings, torture only helps to escalate the crisis.  #endthekidnappings   #endthekillings #endthewar

Cameroon’s Endemic Bannerman’s Turaco population in steady Decline

Cameroon prides itself as one of the countries in Africa with the highest number of bird species. With close to about 1000 bird species, Cameroon’s bird’s population has been facing an array of threats ranging from habitat loss to hunting and many more. One of the species that makes Cameroon unique when it comes to birds in Africa is the Bannerman’s turaco.

Bannerman’s turaco

The Bannerman’s turaco (Tauraco bannermani) is a species of bird in the Musophagidae family. This species is endemic to the Bamenda Highlands, North West Cameroon. The Bannerman’s turaco was the last turaco species to be discovered in 1923. Small populations of the Bannerman’s turaco have been recorded in Mt Mbam, Mt Bamboutos and at Fossimondi and Fomenji in the South-West region of Cameroon. They are known to inhabit subtropical or tropical moist mountain forests, between altitudes of 1,700m to 2,950m. They are strictly arboreal (spending the majority of their lives in trees), feeding on the fruits and sometimes on leaves, buds and flowers. The population this emblematic species is estimated to be just 1,500-7,000 mature individuals, mainly restricted to the Bamenda Highland forest, with another small share in the west and south west regions of Cameroon. This turaco has a distinctive red crest, yellow bill and green, red, blue and yellow plumage. However, as it is almost exclusively arboreal (tree living); staying up in the canopy, the species is usually identified by its call which can be heard from as far as a kilometre away. Bannerman’s Turaco shares its genus with 13 other species that are collectively known as the ‘typical’ or green turacos. These birds are unique in the avian world for actually producing green pigment. The green colouration of other bird species occurs due to the microscopic structure of the feathers. It spends its time foraging for fruit and berries in the canopies of the tropical montane forest of Cameroon. The Kilum-Ijim Forest in the Bamenda Highlands is one of the last remaining strongholds for the Bannerman’s Turaco. Even though this emblematic species is peculiar to the Bamenda Highlands, the CEO/President of ERuDeF, Louis Nkembi says the Lebiabiam Highlands has a great number of Bannerman’s turaco population. Hear him “The Barnnaman’s turaco previously thought to be limited to the Bamenda Highlands was recorded in the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and across the caldera of the Mount Bamboutos, part of the Lebialem Highlands. The Bannerman’s turaco is greatly threatened and if quick conservation efforts are not put in place, this species will be extinct in the no distant future”

 The greatest threat to the species in its range habitat is habitat loss. Habitat loss in this area is mostly caused by agriculture, forest fires, logging and firewood collection and grazing of domestic animals. The Bannerman’s turaco is hunted for its feathers because of its cultural significance to the indigenous population. The Kilum-Ijim forest remains firm but forest losses still occur due to wildfires, collection of firewood, timber cutting for wood carvings, livestock grazing, and bee keeping. Population growth in villages surrounding the forest has doubled (at least) since the Kilum-Ijim Forest was established, leading to increased pressure on the forest for livelihoods and subsistence uses. Advocating for change in these areas by raising awareness of locals and hunters on the dangers of hunting the Tauraco bannermani for its red feather. Educating them on the conservation needs will help curb the threats to the species and increase in chances of survival.

Why Cameroon’s Bakassi Mangroves need urgent conservation action

The Bakassi mangroves are located in the Rio Del Rey Estuary. The area is a trans-boundary site between Cameroon and Nigeria. The mangroves constitute half of the total 200,000 ha of mangrove forest ecosystems in Cameroon. These mangroves are considered the most important in Central Africa and the 6th in Africa.

Bakassi mangrove

Bakassi mangrove are composed of six indigenous species, namely Rhizophora racemosa, Rhizophora harrisonii, Rhizophora mangle (Rhizophoraceae), Avicennia germinans (Avicenniaceae), Laguncularia racemosa, and Conocarpus erecrus (Combretaceae), as well as one exotic species Nypa fructicans (Arecaceae).

The mangrove ecosystem of Bakassi is a very important habitat for fisheries, amphibians, reptiles, birds and aquatic mammals. The mangroves host some 557 marine fish species, including 51 endemic species, 43 threatened, 59 reefs associated, 131 pelagic and 187 deep water. A total of 20 fish species have been documented as vulnerable, endangered, near threatened, critically endangered and data deficient.

Other biodiversity in the area include more than 13 species of Mollusks, more than 10 species of shellfishes and five threatened marine turtle species (Chelonia mydas, Lepidochelys olivacea, Dermochelys coriacea, Eretmochelys imbricata and Caretta caretta).

The Bakassi mangroves are also a uniquely important habitat for the endemic and threatened Cameroon Clawless Otter (Aonyx capensis congicus) and West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis). It is also recognized as an important reproduction area and environment for both migratory and resident birds, and 70 species of birds are known to visit the Bakassi mangroves annually.

Mangroves are one of the important ecosystems in the world, providing ideal breeding grounds for much of the fish, shrimp, crabs, and other shellfish harvested by both commercial and artisanal fishermen. Mangrove forests provide habitat to thousands of marine and freshwater species. They protect both the saltwater and the freshwater ecosystems. The mangroves’ complex root systems filter nitrates and phosphates that rivers and streams carry to the sea. They also keep seawater from encroaching on inland waterways. They stabilize the shorelines against erosion. They also protect the land from wind and sea wave damage.

The Bakassi mangroves offer a lot of ecosystem services to the over 300,000 people living in the Bakassi Peninsular. Mangrove forests provide many of the resources upon which the coastal people depend for their survival and livelihood. Within the Bakassi mangrove, one can observe a lot of fishing activities with the people collecting clams, shellfishes, and shrimp etc. Mangrove trees provide fuel for fishing smoking and cooking, medicines, and wood for building of houses and boats.

Today, the Bakassi mangroves are under serious threats from deforestation/degradation leading to decline in species population thus affecting the livelihood of people that depend on these resources.  Unsustainable practices such as the frequent use of dynamite, cyanide, and other illegal gears and the widespread harvesting of mangroves for export to neighboring countries and for fish smoking is a serious call for concern. This certainly will be very detrimental in the nearest future.