Saturday 27 February 2010

Cameroon Wildlife - Ten "must know" features - and Women's World Day of Prayer

Women’s World Day of Prayer

Ten "must know" features about Cameroon Wildlife
Why Cameroon is a Biodiversity Hotspot?
This year The Women’s World Day of Prayer is on Friday 5th March.

This day happens every year and is celebrated in countries throughout the world. Denominations join together for this. This year the Women of Cameroon have written the service. The theme is: Let Everything that has Breath Praise God

Look out for a service held near you wherever you live in the world. In Settle our service will be held at the Settle Christian Fellowship Church on Duke Street at 7.30pm. – 

I have seen this year’s service: The text of the songs and prayers is mostly very happy and upbeat (as are so many West African people themselves) and I thoroughly recommend you go an enjoy it, joining with women (and men) around the world for this service.

One paragraph of the service says: 
    “We praise God for the beauty of our countries. In Cameroon ..we praise God for the mines, for the forest, for the Dja, Limbe and Campo nature reserves, for the rich wildlife, and for the variety of landscapes. "

I would like to tell you more about the wildlife and conservation importance of Cameroon and say a little about these three reserves…
  1. So that when we sing the songs about “Creation’s voice declares it” we can think of some of the wonderful wild plants and animals that live there, as well as the domesticated ones mentioned in the text.
  2. So that you might be moved to support financially some conservation project in Cameroon and I list some that I have found at the end.
  3. So that we can pray for the people working for conservation in Cameroon (see end) – the government officials , the politicians, the wildlife rangers, the poachers, the farmers, the locals, the local rulers, – that they think not just of short term gains but of long term  sustainable and biodiverse future

Here I present some facts I have found by searching the Internet, and from my own visit there in 1987. I visited  Korup, a Nature Reserve in Cameroon  ( – lowland tropical rainforest on very poor soil on the border with Nigeria, and  Mount Oku/Kupe (montane forest).  I stayed with a botanist friend who worked collecting plants and who (as I later found out) discovered a new species  has potential in the quest for a cure for HIV/AIDs. I also visited Mt Cameroon which is an active volcano, and at 4095 m high, the highest mountain in West and Central Africa.

so, blog style, here are
Ten "must know" features about Cameroon Wildlife 

1. Cameroon’s size and position means it has a range of habitats

from Tropical Rainforest in the south, just north of the Equator  to  hot dry savannah grasslands (almost desert) in the north.. From the marine life (such as the bay rich in prawns which led the Portuguese in the 15th century to give Cameroon the name Rio dos Camaröes – River of Prawns) to the highest Mountain in West Africa, Mount Cameroon at 4095m.  Each has its own animal and plant species and different threats.

Cameroon is on the boundary between West Africa and Central Africa. It covers 47,544 square miles -  twice the area of the UK.  The commerce language is English (or pidgin English) in the South West, and French in the rest of Cameroon. Cameroon also has a wide diversity of people – with  240 different tribal groups and over 25 main languages. Some of the oldest tribes include  the Baka Pygmy people of the forests in the south.

2. Some rainforests are 60 million years old

The Rainforests are very special because they are very old – In most of West Africa the forests retreated and were replaced by grassland as climate conditions changed, and then the forests expanded again., but pockets of forest stayed there all the time and could have been growing for 60 million years. (Pretty impressive when you think that just 20,000 years ago we in the North of England lost all our vegetation as out land was covered by ice).

3. Individual mountains have their own species

 In the highland forest some individual mountains have acted as islands with species evolving separately on separate mountains. These species are much newer in Evolutionary terms. These mountains have become taller due to volcanic activity..
You can read about Biodiversity hotspots here:

The forest in the west of Cameroon is part of the area classified as "Guniean Forest of West Africa Biodiversity Hotspot" which stretches from the Sanaga river in Cameroon, eastwards to Sierra Leone and Guinea

4. Plants

Here are some interesting facts about plants in Cameroon

About two percent of the plant species which grow in Cameroon only grow in Cameroon - i.e. they are endemic to Cameroon. There were 8260 species of higher plant in Cameroon (in 2004) of which 334 arre threatened, and 156 endemic. (This compares with 1,623 in UK of which 13 are threatened) There must be many undiscovered plant species still in Cameroon.
There are 600 native tree species of which 50 are critically endangered, 27 endangered and 106 vulnerable

Oil Palm - Oil Palm trees evolved in this part of Africa, and have since been taken and cultivated in other parts of the world. (Palm Oil palm is used for soap, cosmetics, and is in about 10% of the food products we buy in the supermarket or 50% of our packaged food. Vast quantities of forest in Indonesia and other countries are being cut down and replaced with Oil  Palm monocultures for vegetable oil and for biofuel). In Cameroon the Oil Palm is mostly used for local consumption as cooking oil.

Strophanthus is a creeper that can be used as arrow poison -While in Korup I took a good photo See  http://rainforest/

A species of wild coffee found on Mount Oku is said to be of more value than the robusta aned arabica species common in Cameroon

When I first went to West Africa - ALL the plants looked different to those I knew in the UK. the only plants I recognised were Maize and Poincettia. Near the top of mount Cameroon I recognised European families such as St John's-wort.

Allanblackia - a good news story on 24 Feb 2010! this wild tree has nuts that can be used instead of Palm Oil. IUCN reports a new project which is successful in Ghana, and which will be spread to neighbouring countries including Cameroon: In Ghana alone, there are about 4,000 Allanblackia collectors. It is expected that by 2012, 20,000 individuals will be supplying Allanblackia oil in five countries generating a potential total rural income of US$ 2 million. This translates into an average small-scale farmer earning an additional US$ 100 per year. On the biodiversity front, each tree provides an ‘anchor’, helping to restore forest landscapes.

5. Mammals

Cameroon has 322 different species of wild mammal. Of these 15 do not live outside Cameroon. 42 of them (i.e. one eighth of them) are under threat of extinction.

Species most under threat include:
    Black Rhino 
    Three species of shrew.
    Oh, a web page written in 12 July 2006 states: West African Black Rhino Extinct: "The West African black rhino is now feared extinct," the Switzerland-based environmental group IUCN said, and Africa's northern white rhino could soon follow. Extensive surveys in northern Cameroon, the animals' last known refuge, found no trace of the rhino subspecies. Poachers have hunted the animals for decades for their horns to supply markets in Yemen and Asia

Followed by
    Gorilla African Elephant Oku Mountain Shrew

    Chimpanzee - Although not quite under threat of world extinction yet, Chimpanzee numbers have been vastly reduced, the largest remaining populations occur in central Africa, mainly Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Cameroon.  Chimpanzees once inhabited 25 African countries. Now, they are extinct in 3 or 4 and nearing extinction in many others. Deforestation and commercial hunting for bushmeat are taking a terrible toll on most populations.

6. Threats to Cameroon wildlife: 

Deforestation, desertification, overgrazing, poaching, and overfishing are all problems. The population of Cameroon is now estimated to be c.20,000,000 and has doubled since I was there in 1987 when it was 10.000,000 - so pressure on land is increasing.  The median age is 18.6 years, and the average number of children per woman is 4.6

Cameroon has one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa, losing some 220,000 hectares of forest per year (i.e. 2,200 sq km), mostly to logging and agriculture. Between 1990 and 2005 Cameroon
lost 13.4% of its Forest Cover, or around 33,000 sq km

Cameroon has some 1661 known species of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles according to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre. Of these 7.2% are endemic.

Another threat to biodiversity is overfishing:   Overfishing in the sea by foreign trawlers with nets with tiny gaps that catch even the small fish  - Hence fishing stocks are plummeting, local fishermen can no longer catch fish, local people miss out on protein in their diet.


What is special about the Dja, Limbe and Campo Reserves, that these should be singled out by the Women of Cameroon who wrote the service? Perhaps it is because they are all in the south of the country.

7. The Dja reserve

The Dja lies in the south east, almost completely surrounded by the river Dja which forms a natural boundary. It has a wide range of primates and 107 mammal speicies, five of which are threatened. A paper by Jean Lagarde Betti  states that it is the home of forest elephants, chimpanzees and gorillas. . The major ethnic groups, the Bantus and Baka Pygmies, live side by side inside and outside the reserve. (The Baka have been here since the Neolithic, before other tribes came) The reserve itself has not yet been subject to forest logging, but there are eight forest logging Companies working around the reserve. This is a serious problem as it reduces the wild fruits for local people and large mammals. Animals are being hunted in the reserve for sale in towns. More than 70% of the plant species logged in the Dja region are scattered mostly by animals.

8. The Limbe Reserve
The Limbe Reserve is beside the sea in the South west (and a fine beach there is there too!)  There is a Botanical Garden here started in 1892  
The Limbe Wildlife Centre, a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation project started in 1993 –animals rescued from Cameroon’s bushmeat trade. This gives an opportunity to see animals. Sadly there are few places in the wild where it is safe to release them. Only 120,000 chimpanzees remain in the wild in central Africa and every day 100s more are shot.

9. The Campo Ma’an Reserve
The Campo ma'an reserve is in the extreme south west, beside the sea and Equatorial Guinea.  It is tropical forest with gorillas, mandrills, chimpanzees and other primates. It is the home of the Bagyeli Pygmy people

10. How you can help:-
Here are some charities and conservation organisations involved in  conservation work in Cameroon.

It is important that the local people are involved with the management of the forests and other nature reserves, and that they benefit from its conservation.. It is important to find solution to the problems of  poaching and commercial shooting of bushmeat, of overgrazing by goats, of logging and clearence of forest  for agriculture or moncultures of Eucalyptus trees, and of accepting bribes and turning a blind eye to some of these problems. It is important to find sustainable uses of the forest  World Wildlife Fund
Birdlife International and Cameroon Biodiversity Conservation Society
IUCN - the International Union for Conservation of Nature

We can pray for the people working for conservation in Cameroon
– the government officials , the politicians, the wildlife rangers, the poachers, the farmers, the local rulers, – that they think not just of short term gains but of long term rewards. We can pray that  – that the species will still be here in another 20 years time, that more trees can be planted to stop soil erosion, that goats can be kept under control,  that wild species of tree can be kept (and their associated wildlife)  rather than replaced with monoculture of fast growing Eucalyptus that do not give homes to wildlife. We can pray that people in Britain will use timber that has the FSC label - Forest Stewardship Council.  The forest is worth far more standing than it is cut down.
We can pray that children can be educated to appreciate their wildlife.

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