Nja Beltin Tekuh,
The Cameroon Oil Transportation Company (COTCO) commissioned in 1998 an environmental impact survey of a proposed oil pipeline route from Chad to Cameroon. The results of the survey revealed that an area along the pipeline in eastern Cameroon known as Deng Deng, a forest block physically separated by savannas and agricultural lands from most of the forests of southern Cameroon, harboured interesting populations of large mammals, including elephants,
chimpanzees and western lowland gorillas, including a variety of animals from both forest and Savannah habitats (Dames & Moore 1999). The gorillas were the most northerly population of western lowland gorillas in existence.
A survey in 2002 by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Cameroon, focused on two areas identified by the impact assessment surveys of COTCO known as the Deng Deng Sanctuary and the Belabo Communal Forest. The Results of WCS surveys suggested that the Deng Deng-Belabo areas still maintained viable populations of both gorillas and chimpanzees. The survey proposed that the conservation value of the area merited its gazettement as a protected area (Fotso et al. 2002). The survey also pointed out that the Deng Deng forest area lies just to the east of the Mbam et Djerem National Park which was gazetted in the year 2000. The Mbam et Djerem National Park has no gorillas and is separated from the Deng Deng Forest by the Sanaga River, a major bio-geographical barrier in the region.
More surveys in parts of the same general Deng Deng area were carried out in 2004 and 2007, this time as environmental impact studies for the proposed Lom-Pangar dam construction project which lies just to the east (Monfort et al. 2007). The survey stated that the encounter rate of both chimp and gorilla nest group sites in the area had not changed since the 2002 study. It was an
encouraging findings underlining the support that should be given to the creation of a protected area in the location of Deng Deng.
A comprehensive study of all of the available likely forests that could be reasonably gazetted as a protected area was then carried out by WCS in 2008 (Maisels et al. 2009). The purpose of the study was to draw up suggestions for both the exact location of the most important areas for great apes (especially gorillas) and the type of management that should be carried out there. The results helped to locate where the main populations of gorillas resided.
A survey was conducted in early 2010 covering roughly half of the Deng Deng Forest. It was then that “Décret No 2010/0482 pm du 18 Mars 2010 portant crécrécr action du Parc National du Deng Deng” was signed by the Prime Minister protecting an area covering 523 km2.