I hopped on to a plane in Toronto, Canada and 17 hours later landed in the city of Douala in the African country of Cameroon.
Imagine my delight as this Canadian being able to be in tropical Cameroon from November 2014 to May 2015. No harsh Canadian winter for me.
So I arrived in Cameroon with the hopes of working alongside ERuDeF team to help with bio-monitoring and preserving the rainforests that harbour some of the world’s most incredible apes, birds, elephants, reptiles, butterflies, etc; some of which are on the verge of extinction.
Mak-Betchou is located approximately five and half hours outside Menji a small remote town and headquarter of Lebialem Division at the base of the Lebialem Highlands. Mak-Betchou is still a natural and somewhat untouched area of forest that needs to be transformed into a protected area. The local people have approached ERuDeF and have asked for help in this matter.
ERuDeF has been in the Mak Betchou area for the past several years struggling to try and keep the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, elephants and the Cross River Gorilla from becoming extinct. And this has been very difficult for all involved; the saving of Mak-Betchou and the wildlife that live there. As we found out, money aside; to place trained guides in the area to help bio-monitoring and protecting the forest against people coming in to hunt, slash and burn the land and plant farms, will take at least another two years. Or even more.
After a fortnight in Mak-Betchou, and upon an excursion with two other colleagues we came across almost seven hectares of land that had already been destroyed. All within the last couple of months (according to our field guide). The forested land had been hacked down for the cultivation of cocoa and plantains. We learned from our guide that these were all outsiders coming in to do this; clear the forests of Mak-Betchou, for which the locals have a pride for. And cartridges. We also found so many cartridges.
Question: How many animals have been killed in the process of creating these new farms?
As we were leaving that area, we could hear chainsaws roaring in the distance. The poor animals that call Mak Betchou home, no wonder they are becoming less and less evident.
We all have to remember that it will take at least three years for the forest to take this land back, and only if no one was to return and disrupt this area.
Maybe it is not too late for Mak-Betchou, after all.
By Kelly Dudas