Thanks to its position ranging from the Congo Basin to the Sahelian grasslands, via a high mountain chain, Cameroon is the fourth richest African country in terms of biodiversity. Entitled ‘Africa in miniature’, this country situated half way between Central and West Africa is home to less than 200 different tribes coming from different parts of the continents and attracted by arable and pasture land. As a consequence, the conservation issues faced all over the continent are summarized in Cameroon: deforestation, poaching, illegal gold mining, large-scale plantations (palm and rubber trees), slash-and-burn agriculture, and extensive pastoralism. We are tackling different issues in working in two sites: the southern tropical forests, and the northern savannas.
We have been working with the Ape Action Africa for a few years now. This non-profit organization is looking after about 300 primates in a sanctuary at Mefou National Park. This sanctuary is located in a tropical secondary forest, south of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. All the monkeys (mandrills, colobus, mangabeys and guenons) and apes (gorillas and chimpanzees) are orphans, victims of the bushmeat trade, and have been confiscated by the police. This sanctuary provides them with a second chance at a good life, after having witnessed the killing of their family, and undergoing poor treatment in captivity. Due to their past mistreatment, the reintroduction of these primates in the wild seems difficult, but caring for them in a captive natural environment allows them to live with conspecifics.
In the northern savannas, we are working on the preservation of the Vulnerable Kordofan giraffes, along with their environment and other wildlife (such as giant elands, African elephants, kobs and leopards). The Kordofan giraffe is one of the most threatened and least known subspecies of giraffe, and Cameroon is potentially home to a third of its population. Initialising our work in Benoue National Park, we are now extending our activities in the other protected areas in the north of the country. At this stage, our work consists in estimating the population and distribution of the giraffes, and to work with local communities for the protection of their habitats.
In parallel of the giraffe population and distribution survey in the national parks of northern Cameroon, we are working with the conservation teams in order to counter attack the main threats wildlife are facing in the region: uncontrolled pastoralism, illegal gold mining, and poaching. We support the conservators and their eco-guards by donating necessary equipment for anti-poaching patrols, as well as tools such as Smartphones and quadcopter drones. This new technology is now decisive in the fight against human encroachment. Working closely with local populations, we aim to help reduce illegal pastoralism, mostly conducted by non-local cattle herders.
The in situ conservation project of giraffes in Cameroon is directly linked with our ex situ conservation programme. The three new giraffes currently housed at Wild Place Project are part of the European breeding programme, and the study of their faeces in captivity will allow us to create relevant protocols to monitor wild giraffe. This methodology will be of great help in Benoue National Park as the habitat is densely covered by Isoberlinia spoka, Combretum sp., and Afzelia africana trees, making it difficult to survey mammals, even as large as giraffes.
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