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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