Volunteers from across the globe help create new great ape reserves in South West Cameroon
Volunteers from all over the world are working hand in hand with Cameroonian conservationists to save Cross River gorillas and chimpanzees from extinction. In total six new protected areas will be established to protect vital habitat.
The reserves will give much-needed protection to some of the world’s most endangered species.
Cross River Gorillas are one of the world's 25 most endangered primates according to the IUCN Primate Specialist Group. Estimates on the number of Cross River gorillas remaining is 250–300 in the wild and their range is currently very fragmented.
The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee is also the most endangered chimpanzee subspecies in Africa, with a population numbering less than 6000.
As a result of human population growth and agricultural encroachment, gorillas and chimpanzees are being forced into higher altitudes but even these areas are increasingly used for farming.
Partnership process with multiple stakeholders
Over the past few years, international volunteers travelled thousands of kilometres to join the project for some weeks or months. While in Cameroon, they assist with great apes surveys and habitat mapping, using technologies like GIS, GPS and camera traps. This resulted in draft notices with clear geographical specifications for the proposed protected areas boundaries.
Volunteers also take part in conservation education in primary schools and community centres, raising awareness among children and their parents about the need to protect great apes and other endangered species.
Over 25,000 people benefit from the project through employment and the development of innovative income generating opportunities, such as ecotourism, wildlife farming and beekeeping.
“Volunteers from across the globe have made a difference by volunteering their time and their skills or by contributing financially.” said Arend de Haas, director of the African Conservation Foundation. “We welcomed volunteers from the USA, France, UK, Australia, Sweden, Finland, South Africa, Germany and many other countries.”
Finding a holiday that offers an authentic conservation experience and is making a real difference on the ground is not always easy. The African Conservation Foundation and its partners manage to bring international and local talents together to actively solve wildlife and development issues.
New protected areas
The programme led to designating new proposed protected areas across the Lebialem Highlands Conservation Complex. This includes the proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Ellioti Chimpanzee Sanctuary, the Tofala-Mone Forest Corridor, Mt Bamboutos Integral Ecological Reserve, Nyi-tebong/Fuagonkem Hills and the Nkingkwa Hill Forest Reserve.
As part of the official gazettement process, communities receive training in collaborative forest management and livelihood development. These activities should bolster post-project efforts to effectively and sustainably manage the new conservation areas.
Witnessing the successful culmination of a long process is an exciting event for both staff and international volunteers, but it also marks the beginning of a new chapter because the new reserves will need strong support to meet its conservation objectives to conserve these great apes for present and future generations.
The African Conservation Foundation is working towards the protection and conservation of Africa's endangered wildlife and their habitats. Its overall mission is to change the approach of the management and utilization of natural resources to one in which the needs of human development in the region are reconciled with biodiversity conservation. Visit AfricanConservation.org
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