The historic entrance of ERuDeF into the great apes conservation in the Lebialem highlands started in 2004, when she discover another sub population of the cross river gorilla in what is known today as the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary. Since then, research efforts led by ERuDeF have resulted to creating the first distribution map of great apes in the Lebialem highlands.
ERuDeF launched its conservation efforts to provide long term protection of these great apes species populations in 2010 with focus on cross river gorillas and the Nigeria Cameroon chimpanzees which are located in the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (THWS), Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary (MBWS), and Tofala-Mone Wildlife Corridor. Hence, leading to the creation of the THWS in 2014 and currently concluding the process for the creation of the proposed MBWS (4000ha).
Additionally, ERuDeF has secured the protection of 30000 ha of wildlife corridor linking THWS and the Mone Forest Reserve to serve as a genetic corridor for the cross river gorillas in the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and greater Takamanda National Park. ERuDeF is currently supporting efforts to link the Bayang-Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary (69145ha) to Santchou Game Reserve 7000ha through Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary and a series of interconnected corridors of community reserves amounting to 7000 ha.
ERuDeF vision in this landscape in the next fifteen (15) years is to consolidate the management of a system of protected areas and corridors, to support the long term conservation of great apes using collaborative management approach. According to the ERuDeF Director of Biodiversity and Protected area creation, before the end of this 15 years project, a total surface area of 130,482 ha would have been collectively protected with 88,225 ha of protected area (THWS 8080 ha, the proposed MBWS 4000 ha, the Bayang- Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary 69,145ha and Santchou Game Reserve 7000ha) and 42,257 ha of corridors in the form of community forest (Tofala-Mone Corridor (25,000ha) linking Mone Forest Reserve to the THWS and the Bayang-Mbo, Mak-Betchou and Sanctchou corridor with area of 17,257 ha) will be effectively manage in these highlands to secure and ensure genetic connectivity and migration among species.This will lead to the protection of 60 cross river gorilla sub population, 1000 Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees, 200 African forest elephants as well as other IUCN Red list species such as Drills, Preuss’s monkey, many species of birds, amphibians and reptiles.
In order to improve on the sustainable management of biodiversity through human welfare development and reduction of human pressure on key biodiversity targets in the Lebialem landscape, ERUDEF envisage to invest ten (10) billion CFA to support community development projects.