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Conservation efforts in Ebo Forest National Park goes in vain

Conservation efforts in Ebo Forest National Park goes in vain

The proposed Ebo Forest National Park that cuts across the Sanaga Maritime and the Nkam divisions in the Littoral Region of Cameroon is one of the most important remaining tracts of closed-canopy forest in the Littoral region. It covers a surface area of 111, 2880 hectares of lowland and montane forests and contains one of the most complete populations of a wide variety of forest mammals in Cameroon. Also, it is an important cultural and livelihood resource for more than 40 forest adjacent communities.

According to Bethan Morgan, a conservation Researcher who has been working in the Ebo Forest for the past two decades, the area is an important functional biodiversity hotspot (Morgan, 2003). It is home to a potential new critically endangered gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) subspecies, most important population of the endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan Troglodyte’s ellioti), the only chimpanzee population in the world to both crack nuts and fish for termites. This area also host an important remaining drill population (Mandrillus leucophaeus) (Morgan et al 2013), Forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), one of the two remaining populations of the critically endangered Preuss’s red colobus (Piliocolobus preussi).  Apart from Mammals, the area equally  host at least 12 plant species new to science like Talbotiella ebo, Ardisia ebo, Crateranthus cameroonensis, Palisota ebo, Gilbertiodendron ebo, Inversodicraea ebo, Kupeantha ebo etc. all of which are threatened, and most of which are globally unique to the Ebo forest. In addition a diverse bird community including grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) also occur in the area (Whytock & Morgan 2010).  

Recently, the government of Cameroon has signed two decrees on the 4th of February 2020 which was made public  on the 9th of March 2020 proposing the gazettement of two Forest Management Units(FMU) (FMU 07-005 and FMU 07-006), that will replace the proposed Ebo Forest National Park. The FMU is a production forest, managed by an economic operator in collaboration with the state, mainly for the exploitation of timber for commercial purposes. This FMU will have a detrimental effect not only to the species, but also on the environment as the area is known to sequestrate 35 million tonnes of carbon (Global Forest Watch, 2020). More so, all communities surrounding the area rely on the forest for non-timber forest products such as food and medicines. Close relatives of many community elders, are buried throughout the forest and the traditional chiefs of most of these communities are members of the legally-recognized traditional chief’s association (Association des Chefs Traditionnels Riverains de La Forêt d’Ebo (ACTRIFE), who have long campaigned for the protection of their land for conservation and to protect their cultural heritage (Mfossa et al 2017).Furthermore, these communities received no notice of the planned logging concessions as  official notices, were posted at the senior divisional office just one day before the first legally designated consultation meeting. Free prior informed consent of local stakeholders must be secured before creation of any protected area or UFA. Until now, all consultation has been regarding the creation of a national park. Alternatives, such as conservation with strong local community involvement should also be considered. The forest is also an internationally recognized Centre of research for academics and students based in international and national universities.

Conservation organizations both national and international in Cameroon strongly disagree with this decision and urge the Government, through the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, to stand by its commitment to protect the Ebo Forest for its globally significant conservation values as   this decision is totally against all conservation effort made by International and National organization, for the protection and conservation of this unique biodiversity hotspot. 

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