Over 5000 persons from Fossimondi, M’mockbie and Nwangong villages bordering the biodiversity-rich Tofala forest in the Lebialem Highlands have been schooled on the need to conserve endangered wildlife species like the Cross River Gorillas, Nigerian-Cameroon Chimpanzees and many others in the proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (THWS). They were also advised to shun poor environmental practices like the slash and burn farming system and indiscriminate cutting down of trees amongst others.

The clarion call was made during a week-long environmental protection and wildlife conservation sensitization campaign, from February 11 to 15, 2014, organised by the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Unit of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) in Alou Subdivision in the Lebialem Highlands, SW Cameroon.

The campaign dubbed the Annual Wildlife Advocacy Week (WAW) was launched during celebrations marking the 48th National Youth Day, in the presence of over 5000 persons. Speaking at the ceremony, the Coordinator for Education for Sustainable Development, Ms Akeh Nug urged the people of this biodiversity hot spot to join hands with ERuDeF in conserving wildlife and saving their porous landscape against natural disasters like landslide, floods, and soil erosion amongst others.

During the event, Environmental Clubs in Alou marched pass the grand stand with unique conservation messages like “a green planet is a clean planet”, “Let’s save the last great apes and their habitat” and “I am a green police” just to name these. They also brandished paintings of some protected wildlife species conspicuous amongst which were Chimpanzees and Gorillas, while others marched with green cards, green caps and band depicting their desire for a green environment.

The ERuDeF ESD team equally set up an exhibition stand, decorated all green-for a green planet, with portraits and posters of some protected wildlife species erected for the people to familiarize themselves with.

Pupils/students, stamped their palms around pictures of great gapes with unique statements like “I love chimpanzees and gorillas,” “they are our cousins,” “plant trees,” “Chimpanzees and gorillas are my friends” to name these.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, the second Deputy Mayor of Alou, Mr. Richard Njebeleh, appreciated the effort of ERuDeF in conserving wildlife in the Lebialem Highlands in his words “I want to encourage ERuDeF to do everything within her power to bring back the natural environment as it use to be. A forest like the proposed Tofala sanctuary which is having some of the most endangered wildlife species should be jealously protected” the Deputy Mayor said.

Having launched the WAW in a grand style in G.H.S. M’muock, the ERuDeF education team went to the Fossimondi, M’mockbie and Nwangong villages and held workshops on the identification of various endangered wildlife species, projected documentaries on tree planting and the activities of some wildlife species in the forest. The team also had a constructive interaction with students/pupils and teachers on the short and long term implications of conserving the country’s wildlife species and biodiversity.

These activities were combined with conservation songs, poetry dramatization and drama on the importance of environmental protection and wildlife conservation by the environmental clubs of different schools in each of these villages. They were also involved in competitions like the “Sweet, and Sack Races for gorilla conservation”

After the educative and enlightening week-long activities, Environmental Clubs from schools in each of the villages moved round their communities posting posters of endangered animal species they want protected. This sensitization campaign was greeted with lots of ecstasy by the people of these areas.

Reacting to the campaign, a teacher at G S Fosimondi Ms Cecila Ntemngwa, lauded ERuDeF’s approach to conservation, which above all, begins by educating both “young and the old on the importance of conservation”. She said the approach guarantees both short term and long term conservation of the forest and the environment.

The students on their part thanked ERuDeF for organising such a thrilling and enlightening campaign promising to transmit what they have learned to the nooks and crannies of their communities.

Meanwhile different village notables like Ndi Nkemcha Charles and Ndi Nkemcha Lefie of M’mockbie fondom, Zabze Clifford of the Fossimondi fondom and Pa. Simon Nkemnkem of Nwangong, all threw weight behind ERuDeF in conservation asking for many more sensitization campaigns in their respective villages.

By Bertrand Shancho Ndimuh

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