The Lebialem Highlands region of southwest Cameroon is home to diverse endemic and threatened species. To protect this vital habitat, Rainforest Trust is supporting the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) to create the 34,794-acre Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary for endangered wildlife such as the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, the Drill, the African Forest Elephant and the Goliath Frog.
Since the Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary does not yet exist, there is no official protection of the forest. With funding from Rainforest Trust, ERuDeF has recruited local community members to serve as “Ecoguards.” The Ecoguards prevent hunting and agricultural encroachment and contribute to ongoing biodiversity by helping to track wildlife with camera traps and GPS technology. In addition, ERuDeF staff hold “biodiversity sensitization” meetings with community members to discuss the benefits of biodiversity conservation.
“The protection of Mak-Betchou forest is vital for the survival of the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, African Forest Elephants, Drills and other species,” said Allen Tabi Enokenwa, Director of ERuDeF’s Biodiversity and Protected Area Management Programme.
“Community Ecoguards, considered as local conservation leaders, use their acquired skills and extensive knowledge of the area to monitor threatened species and illegal human activities. Their actions are imperative in the long-term protection of the Mak-Betchou forest area.”
Dr. Sally Lahm, Rainforest Trust’s Africa and Madagascar Conservation Officer, said, “The community Ecoguards use their natural knowledge and wisdom of the Mak-Betchou forest and wildlife to protect and monitor their forest assisted by technical training and field equipment. Full community participation in protection and management of this forest is crucial not only to the process of creating the sanctuary, but also for its long-term existence in the Lebialem Highlands.”
After the creation of the Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary, the Ecoguards will work with a government-appointed Conservator and six rangers. This protection, along with the continuous involvement of the local community in conservation management, aims to create a much-needed haven for wildlife in the Lebialem Highlands.
Header photo: Mak-Betchou Ecoguards participate in camera trap training. Photo courtesy of ERuDeF.