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Located just 2° above the equator in Central Africa, Cameroon is among the richest countries in Africa in terms of biodiversity resources. Cameroon supports over 900 species of birds, over 300 mammals and many other stunning creatures. Its forests harbour not one but two subspecies of the western gorilla – the Cross River gorilla and the western lowland gorilla.
It is often called ‘Africa in miniature’ because it exhibits all major climates and vegetation of the continent: coast, desert, mountains, rainforest, and savanna. It is also very culturally diverse, with over 200 different linguistic groups.
The country’s ecosystems and wildlife are threatened by habitat loss from logging and agricultural expansion. Another serious conservation problem is the hunting of bush meat (or wild animals). With increasing numbers of mouths to feed, people must rely on nature to provide for them. Yet if carried on unabated, Cameroon risks having what is called an ’empty forest syndrome’.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) currently focuses our efforts in Cameroon on supporting the protection of two key forest landscapes, Dja Biosphere Reserve and Bechati-Lebialem forest. Each site contains critical populations of western gorilla subspecies.
FFI has been working to protect western lowland gorillas in and around the Dja Reserve, a Man and Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, since 2003. We are currently working with local partners in Cameroon to create an early warning system against poaching using FrontlineSMS and mobile phone technology. An important component of this work is the involvement of local communities through the established Village Ape Forum. The Forum facilitates the gathering and relaying of intelligence on the movements and activities of poachers to the Reserve’s central command units for rapid and targeted deployments of the protection and monitoring forces.
The Bechati-Lebialem forest, which lies on Cameroon’s southern border with Nigeria, is home to a sub-population of the Critically Endangered Cross River gorilla.
When this sub-population was discovered in 2004, FFI stepped in to help the local organisation Environmental and Rural Development Foundation to build a community-based model for the conservation of great apes in the region.