Discover how primates, locals of Cameroon’s Deng Deng National Park are exposed to zoonosis

Primates
in the Deng Deng National Park such as the endangered Gorillas and Chimpanzees
are likely to suffer the effect of Zoonosis (transfer of diseases from humans
to animals and vice versa). This is so due to the high encroachment into
wildlife habitat. The life cycle and mode of transmission of intestinal parasites increase
the chances of cross host infection between phylogenetically related or
non-related species and re-infection of species.

The serious threat that parasites can  impose  on  endangered  wildlife  species  is  increasingly  recognized,  as it  is    important  in  preserving biodiversity in wildlife ecosystems and controlling the emergence or re-emergence of diseases. Sensitization and mindset change is of great importance in the communities around the Deng Deng National Park to secure the future of primates and prevent the outbreak of diseases.

Human encroachment into wildlife habitat may increase rates and severity of parasitism via the direct route of cross-host transmission between phylogenetically related species (Preslar, 1998) and in some instances non phylogenetically related species (Linda, 2013).

Angwa Gwendoline has been working closely with communities around the Deng Deng National Park for some years now. With the emergence of COVID-19 and other zoonotic diseases, she is very worried at the rate at which locals of this area are getting close to primates most especially, and other wildlife species. Hear her “the rate at which people in this area are increasing getting in contact with primates and other wildlife species is alarming. This increasing contact will probably expose them to zoonotic diseases”

Many species of wildlife today,
inhabits relatively small areas because the vast forest that existed in the
past has been destroyed by human activities and as a consequence, diseases
appear to be more common in wild populations (Kock, 1995; Lilly et al., 2002
and Gillespie et al., 2008). To support this fact, a survey of emerging
pathogens in wildlife was conducted in North America by Dobson and Foufopoulos
in 2001and they found out that human involvement facilitated 55% of pathogen
outbreaks.

233 critically endangered species listed by the IUCN, were alleged threatened by infectious diseases (Smith et al., 2006). These diseases are regarded as the cause of fluctuation or decline in biological population (Macphee and Greenwood, 2012). Wildlife diseases have historically gained attention primarily when they were considered a threat to agricultural systems and the economic, social, or physical health of humans (McCallum and Dobson, 1995; Holmes, 1996; Daszak et al, 2000).  These parasites may be very important to determine the host-health and show  significant  influence on survival and reproduction of populations (Scott 1988; Lewis et al. 2002; Roberts & Janovy 2008).

Coupled to the above, primates as well as other species of
wildlife in the Deng Deng national Park are facing numerous problems amongst
which are, habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, illegal hunting, and a hosting
of others. The Environment and Rural Development Foundation through its
flagship program, Eastern Biodiversity Initiative is working to create a
corridor from Deng Deng National Park to the Belabo Council Forest with support
from World Land Trust. This corridor will provide and enhance suitable conditions
for the movement of endangered species and prevent occurrences of inbreeding
resulting from habitat fragmentation. ERuDeF is also supporting both the local
communities of the corridor area and the Divisional Delegation of Forestry and
Wildlife for Lom, to create two Community Forest Reserves of respectively 5,000
ha and 4,588 ha, to preserve a vital corridor between Deng Deng National Park
(DDNP) and Belabo Council Forest in Eastern Cameroon

World Chimpanzee Day 2020: the future of the endangered Nigeria-Cameroon and the Central Chimpanzees

 “We have to stop the trafficking, we have to stop using Chimpanzees for entertainment, We have to protect their forest” says Dr. Jane Godell who spent 60 years studying Chimpanzees in what is knowm today as the Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Celebrated every 14 of July, the World Chimpanzee Day seeks to raise awareness about the vital need for worldwide participation in their care, protection, and conservation in the wild and in captivity.

Chimpanzees are considered as closest to humankind biologically. Jane Godell says we share more than 98% of of our DNA with them. Despite this close relationship humankind share with Chimpanzees, trafficking of chimps by human beings is on the rise, the bush meat market as Jane Godell puts it, is saturated with chimps, they are losing their habitat as a result of human encroachment.

The 2020
edition of the world Chimpanzee Day is celebrated in the context of the
COVID-19 pandemic that has seemingly come to to stay. Humankind’s endless quest
for survival has pushed him to consciously or unconsciously encroach to the
habitats of most wild animals, drawing them nearer and nearer to us. This has
made us so venerable to zoonotic diseases, COVID-19 being one of the many.

The
Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee is the most endangered of the Chimpanzee
subspecies. They are found along the Cameroon-Nigeria border. The
Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee are also recognized as the least distributed of the
common Chimpanzee subspecies and there are fears that they may be extinct in
decades to come. There are reportedly fewer than 6000 Nigeria-Cameroon
Chimpanzee left in the wild.

ERuDeF’s efforts in
conserving and protecting the most endangered subspecies of Chimapnzee, the
Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee

ERuDeF over the years has been working towards the the conservation of threatened species such as the critically endangered cross river Gorilla and the endangered Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee in the Lebialem highlands. The project doped the Lebialem Highlands Initiatives spans for a period of 15 years and is helping to conserve and protect the endangered Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee amongst other species. This subspecies of chimpanzee numbers about 1000 individuals in the Lebialem Highlands. Amongst the many problems faced by this subspecies of Chimpanzees in the Lebialem Highlands is: habitat loss as a result of human encroachment as well as hunting. The Lebialem Highlands Initiative is therefore a timely project that will not only guarantee the protection and conservation of the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee but other critically endangered species in the Lebialem Highlands such as the cross river gorilla. The Lebialem Highlands has several ear marked projects namely: the production and validation of the management and business plan of the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, management of the proposed Njoagwi- Fotabong III-Essoh-Attah Wildlife Sanctuary, management of Tofala-Mone Corridor, the creation of the  Banyang Mbo -Santchou  Corridor  and to upgrade the Santchou Wildlife Reserve into a National Park. The implementation of these will span over a period of 15 years. In total, the entire initiative will conserve and protect species, including the endangered Nigeria- Cameroon Chimpanzee over a total land area of 130,000ha.

The Environment and Rural
Development Foundation on June 11 2020 launched one of her landmark projects, the
Deng Deng-Belabo Conservation Corridor
Project in Eastern Cameroon. This part of Cameroon is a hub of industrial
lodging and commercial wildlife hunting, thus the critical need for
conservation action.  ERuDeF will be supporting
both the local communities of the corridor area and the Divisional Delegation
of Forestry and Wildlife for Lom, to create two Community Forest Reserves of
respectively 5,000 ha and 4,588 ha, to preserve a vital corridor between Deng
Deng National Park (DDNP) and Belabo Council Forest.  This project will assist in the protection and
conservation of the endangered Western Lowlands Gorillas likewise the
endangered Central Chimpanzees. Other species that will benefit from this
project include but not limited endangered white bellied pangolins, vulnerable
leopards, the near-threatened forest Buffalos etc.

As the world’s population keeps growing in leaps and and bounce, conservation efforts are made very difficult as a result. Many species are increasingly losing their habitats as a result of deforestation, hunting is on the rise. It is very true that we can not stop population growth but we can streamline it with conservation efforts. To conserve and preserve these endangered species we need a concerted action, from international, governmental agencies, conservation organizations and the local population. The Environment and Rural Development welcomes every concerted conservation effort toward the conservation of Chimpanzees likewise every other threatened or endangered species.

Featured Image Credit: BBC

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