The gazettement process of the Lobeke Forests finally ended with the enactment of a Prime Ministerial Decree in March 2001 elevating Lobeke to a National Park, the highest degree of protection under Cameroon Law. Covering some 217, 854 ha of exceptionally rich forest wildlife and varied vegetation types, the gazettement of the Lobeke National Park (Cameroon’s “ Gift to the Earth” in 1998) significantly impacts conservation in that it consolidates the network of Protected Areas in this area of the Congo Basin.
- Negotiations, spearheaded by the CPO with Cameroon, Congo, and the Central African Republic for the development of the largest Trans-border forest Park (The Tri-national of the Sangha with more than 800,000 ha of rich forest land) in the sub-region finally materialized with the signing of the Tri-national Agreement by all three countries in December 2000. The impact of this symbolic event is all ready being felt with joint trans-border anti-poaching patrols being organized and implemented the umbrella of the agreement.
After two unsuccessful attempts, the Ramsar Accession File being pushed by the CPO Policy Programme was favorably reviewed by the Prime Ministers Office and forwarded to the Presidency of the Republic for approval. On approval by the Presidency of the Republic, Cameroon should finally accede to the Ramsar Convention simultaneously nominating three important wetland sites as Ramsar Sites of International Importance. This change of circumstance is a direct result of the appointment of a Ramsar Focal Point by the Government of Cameroon in response to a CPO Policy Programme inspired letter from the Ramsar Bureau, reminding Government of its commitments on signing the Memorandum of the sub-regional workshop on accession and implementation of the convention in 1999. This favorable review is proof of the fact that freshwater issues are being gradually put into the forefront of MINEF policy priorities.
- A management Plan was developed for the Benoue National Park in collaboration with the CPO. The Plan was developed within the context of the objectives of the WWF-Northern Savannah Project, and witnessed the informed participation of local communities and all stakeholders in activities within and around the National Park.
Positive steps have been taken to commence reforms in the wildlife sector. The GoC is putting in place a framework for the development of a National Wildlife Policy and Strategy for Cameroon, while in a bid to reinforce and improve on the existing legal framework, an action plan for the improvement of community participation in wildlife management has been adopted. The GoC also gave statutory recognition as a category of management to the ZICGC (Community Managed Hunting Zones), a WWF initiated move to give local populations more control over the management forests. Five ZICGCs with a total surface area of approximately 300,000 ha of forest areas were created by this Ministerial Order.
The reverberations of the Yaounde Declaration are still being felt within Cameroon and in the sub-region as a whole. Within Cameroon, the Plan d’Action d’ Urgence, the master plan for the implementation of the Yaounde Declaration is slowly but surely being put into effect. MINEF launched a National Anti Poaching campaign targeting local the population and economic operators whose activities may have a deleterious effect on quality and quantity of faunal resources. This led to negotiations with the national railroad transporters resulting in the signing of an Accord, which amongst other things completely bans the transportation of wild meat and other faunal products through its network. WWF, which took part in the sensitization campaign and also in negotiations for the Accord, was identified as a potential organization to monitor and evaluate enforcement of the terms of the Accord.
Significant Conservation Achievements
WWF Preliminary Surveys in the Coastal Forest areas prompted land use plan envisaging creation of protected areas. The Cross-Sanaga Bioko Bioko Project contributed to the development of a Land Use Plan that envisages the creation of Wildlife Reserves and Sanctuaries in the Littoral and the South West Provinces.
After two years of negotiations involving at the tail end, high level meetings at the policy level between the Government of Cameroon and WWF-CPO, the Prime Minister and Head of Government finally signed Decree No. 2001/107/CAB/PM officially declaring Lobeke (217, 857 ha) a National Park. This singular act gives legal effect to the gazettement process proper, which was completed in 1999, and gives Lobeke the highest Protected Area status. Preparations are under way for the development of a management plan for the park.
Negotiations between the CPO, MINEF and the Bollore Group for Sustainable Forest Management in their concessions in Cameroon are far advanced. A MoU has already been drafted and has been forwarded to the Group for comments. On consummation of the MoU, forest concessions owned by the Bollore Group shall be prepared with the assistance of the CPO and MINEF for eligibility for FSC Certification.
Preliminary surveys carried out by the Project established the existence of a rich variety of avifaunal, mammal and floral species in the area, some of high endemism. This prompted GoC authorities to design Land Use Plan for the area bearing in mind the existence of these species, and taking adequate steps to guarantee their protection by making room for the creation of Wildlife Reserves and Sanctuaries.
A small population of gorillas [Gorilla gorilla dielhi] is surviving in the North-Eastern hills of Ebo. The geographical position of this “new” Ebo population is intermediate between the relict population inhabiting the hills of Takamanda/Okwango (which is close to the Nigerian border) and those to the south of the Nyong-Sanaga. This discovery is of immense conservation importance in that it proves the existence of sub-specie hitherto believed to have been extinct in that area.
Rhino conservation experts, GoC officials, experts from the donor community, and NGOs met in Yaounde in November 2000 to develop a conservation strategy for the remnant black Rhino population of the North of Cameroon. Experts set for themselves long, short and medium term goals for the conservation of this sub-specie: location and identification of existing Rhino in the short term, deployment of extraordinary security measures to preponderate founder population in a sanctuary in the medium term, and to include Black Rhino conservation in the Plan d’Action d’Urgence in the long term.
The decline in numbers of the population, and the ensuing uncertainty as to numbers, sex and ages of the Black Rhino Diceros bicornis longipes, prompted the CPO in collaboration with MINEF, IUCN and other NGOs to initiate the Cameroon Black Rhino Location and Identification Project. Although no fresh spoor nor other fresh Rhino sign was observed during the study period, a rhino sighting towards the end of the Project by a hunting zone tracker later confirmed by fresh spoor and tracks, has once more raised hopes of the existence of a remnant population in Northern Cameroon.
Wildlife surveys (aerial and ground) identifies 25 species of large mammals in the Faro National Park. Results also point to the steady disappearance of the Giraffe from the Park, and the high concentration of Hippopotamus in certain areas of the Park. No significant pressure was recorded as yet on the Hippo population despite the presence of gold washers along the Faro Stream. A major impact of the WWF-NS Project survey is the identification and mapping out of certain important biodiversity hotspots within and around the immediate borders of the Park for further conservation initiatives.