Saving One of the World’s Most Critical Hotspots for Amphibians
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Manengouba Long-fingered Frog. Photo by CAMHERP-CBF.
An iconic, ancient volcano shrouded in rainforest within the Cameroon highlands contains a relic population of amphibians and reptiles found nowhere else in the world. This extinct volcano called Mount Manengouba harbors an incredible 100 species of amphibians and provides habitat for more than half of the most threatened frogs and toads in Cameroon. Seven chameleon species – the highest number on mainland Africa – inhabit this mountain.
A combination of unique topography and lush tropical forest have endowed this volcano with exceptional and endemic biodiversity, leading it to be ranked among the highest conservation priorities in Central Africa.
Despite being a global priority, this volcano is unprotected and at grave risk from deforestation that is encroaching from all sides. Increasing pressures for livestock pasture, timber and agricultural land on the fertile soils of Mount Manengouba are seriously threatening all biological resources of the mountain, and wildlife habitats are quickly disappearing.
Rainforest Trust is working with Cameroon Herpetology-Conservation Biology Foundation (CAMHERP-CBF) and Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) in a joint partnership to designate 5,542 acres of Mount Manengouba as an Ecological Reserve to prevent further habitat degradation and protect the mountain’s highly threatened species.
Nsoung Long-fingered Frog. Photo by CAMHERP-CBF
The Cameroon highlands are among Africa’s most diverse regions and are characterized by high levels of endemism, especially among amphibians. Three Critically Endangered frogs – the Manengouba Long-fingered Frog, Nsoung Long-fingered Frog and Redbelly Egg Frog – are known from only a few sites on Mount Manengouba, and sixteen other amphibian species found there are Endangered. The highest number of chameleon species on mainland Africa is found on this mountain, and five of the seven species are endemic to the region.
Mount Manengouba also hosts 270 species of birds, including the Endangered White-throated Mountain Babbler and Vulnerable Green-breasted Bush Shrike. Two notable small mammals – the Endangered Hartwig’s Soft-furred Mouse and Vulnerable Manengouba Shrew – will also be protected in the new reserve.
The combination of species richness, high proportion of endemic wildlife and significant number of threatened species has led the conservation community to rate this mountain as one of the highest priorities for conservation in Africa.
Unsustainable bark harvesting. Photo by CAMHERP-CBF
The most significant threats to the area are the conversion of Mount Manengouba’s lush rainforest on fertile volcanic soils into agricultural land. This activity is devastating for the sensitive amphibian and reptile communities and adversely affects the understory microhabitats around streams and springs. Water runoff polluted by pesticide toxins from agricultural land has contributed to a decline in water quality, while the burning of grassland to renew pasture for cattle is a rising problem. Endangered Goliath Frogs and endemic chameleons are also at high-risk of collection for the international pet trade. It is crucial that we protect them and other threatened amphibians and reptiles as soon as possible.
Local community after workshop. Photo by CAMHERP-CBF
No local people currently live inside the proposed protected area, though the village of Nsoung is situated at the proposed reserve’s border limits. The majority of the human population in the area is concentrated in the main town of Nkongsamba, whose community members trek for up to two hours to conduct agricultural activities on the flank of Mount Manengouba. By protecting these forests, we will ensure a clean and plentiful supply of fresh water to the communities surrounding this volcano. As an Integral Ecological Reserve, the sustainable use of non-timber forest products such as berries and medicinal plants will be permitted and monitored.
Research and monitoring at proposed site. Photo by CAMHERP-CBF
Rainforest Trust is collaborating with CAMHERP-CBF and ERuDeF to designate 5,542 acres of Mount Manengouba as an Integral Ecological Reserve. As part of this process, we will build local capacity of surrounding communities to support the protected area and will increase the number of forestry and wildlife rangers. Four new ranger stations will serve as bases for monitoring and protecting the reserve, and the rangers will be trained and equipped to carry out their duties. The Government of Cameroon through the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife is highly supportive of this initiative.