Our team who visited Cameroon led a practical workshop focusing on the use of new technologies for wildlife research. During the four-day workshop, which took place in Buffle Noir (Bénoué National Park), the staff members of Bénoué, Bouba Ndjida, Faro and Waza national parks were trained on how to pilot a drone, which will be used to track large mammals and illegal activities in the parks. We also showed the staff how to use a data collection application with a smartphone.
The workshop was officially opened by the assistants of the Divisional and Sub-Divisional officers of the local district, Tchollire. The first day was allocated for presentations followed by two days inside the national parks. On the fourth and final day, workshop attendees were shown how to analyse all collected data.
Four exhausting days (blog post written by Osiris Doumbé on the 10.02.2017)
The workshop has just finished and I am shattered. The invitees are now gone and I can finally relax. As the only French speaker of the team, I had to translate the talks in both in English and French so that everyone could understand. Yes, Cameroon is officially a bilingual country but, in general, Cameroonian-French speakers are not really fluent in English. That being said, the workshop went well.
The workshop was officially opened by the assistants of the Divisional and Sub-divisional officers of Tcholliré, and included the conservators and some eco-guards of the four Cameroonian national parks, which have giraffes: Waza, Faro, Bouba Ndjida, and of course, Bénoué.
After a few adjustments of the noisy generator, each conservator presented his protected area, discussing its assets and challenges. As expected, all four national parks are facing similar difficulties: lack of means, uncontrolled cattle herding and illegal gold mining, which are even worse in areas located close to international borders - Waza and Faro are close to Nigeria, and Bouba Ndjida is on the border with Chad. Nevertheless, Kevin, the conservator of Bénoué, delivered a very inspiring presentation, galvanising eco-guards and colleagues into being more active with small-scale but well-organised projects. It was then our turn to show them how we can assist them.
Daniel showed them how to use a quadcopter drone. Will introduced them to the Cybertracker software - a tool that is used on Smartphones to collect data in the field. Gráinne and I familiarised them with standardised data collection techniques and survey methods. All of the eco-guards and conservators showed a great interest in the workshop and some called it the best moment of their years in service (nope, I did not force them to say so).
They were really excited to learn new skills, particularly how to use new technology in order to assist them in the field. Some of them seemed very comfortable with the drone, while others were more skilled in the use of Smartphones and GPS units.
We organised two walks during this workshop: one in the savannah, the other by the bank of the Bénoué River. During the latter, we demonstrated how it is much easier and more effective to count common hippos and Nile crocodiles with a drone that can take very nice pictures from above allowing us to even see the animals under the water! During the walk in the savannah, we got our first sighting of the giraffes a couple of hundred meters away from us. It was amazing! We were all very excited and tried to get some good photos of them. A few juveniles, less shy than the adults, were observing us with curiosity. After much emotion, we walked to our transit to begin recording direct and indirect signs of mammals: kobs, giant elands, roan antelopes, duikers, etc. A great beginning to a very promising project!