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On Africa’s west coast lies the nation of Cameroon, whose unparalleled natural beauty and biodiversity make it one of the most biologically rich countries on the continent. Sometimes called ‘Africa in miniature,’ Cameroon boasts a diverse array of coastal, mountain, rainforest and savanna habitats that shelter a vast assortment of wildlife, many of which are endangered and found nowhere else.
The Lebialem Highlands in the southwest of the country are incredibly biodiverse, even by Cameroon standards. These forests are home to the Critically Endangered Cross River Gorilla, the Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, and a host of threatened and endemic chameleons, birds, amphibians and plants. However, the rapidly increasing human population poses serious threats to these lush highland forests.
In an urgent response to these threats, Rainforest Trust is working with a local partner, Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF), to create a new protected area in the Lebialem Highlands: the Bangwa Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary. This reserve will protect 34,794 acres of montane forest vital for the region’s endangered wildlife. With the support of the local and national government, traditional authorities and surrounding communities, the creation of this reserve will add to an immense network of protected areas spanning over 1.5 million acres throughout the region. Rainforest Trust is also supporting the creation of a management plan for Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, which includes community consultations and hiring eco-guards.
Key Species (Based on IUCN Red List)
Cross River Gorilla (CR), Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (EN), Drill (EN), Goliath Frog (EN), Bannerman’s Turaco (EN), Forest Elephant (VU), Gray-necked Rockfowl (VU)
Mid-elevation montane rainforest
Loss and fragmentation of habitat, poaching
Create Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary
The Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF)
Total Cost of Project
Cost Per Acre
The Lebialem Highlands rank amongst the five most biologically diverse conservation regions in Central Africa, both in terms of the numbers of globally threatened species as well as endemic species.
Importantly, these forests are a conservation priority due to their endangered primate populations. The Drill, an Endangered baboon-like monkey found only in Cameroon and Nigeria, depends on the Lebialem Highlands’ forests for its survival, as well as two of the most threatened great apes in Africa: the Critically Endangered Cross River Gorilla and Endangered Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee. Restricted to the Southern Nigeria-Cameroon border, the Cross River Gorilla is Africa’s most threatened great ape with less than 300 individuals left in the wild. Found roughly in the same area, the Nigerian-Cameroon Chimpanzee is the most endangered of the world’s four subspecies of chimpanzee. In addition to primates, the Vulnerable Forest Elephant and a great variety of birdlife call this area home. Considered one of the most important bird areas in Cameroon, hundreds of species have been documented throughout the area, including the Bannerman’s Turaco and Gray-necked Rockfowl. Rare reptiles and amphibians also abound in these forests, including the Endangered Goliath Frog that weighs over seven pounds; these aptly named amphibians are the largest frogs on Earth. Additionally, the region is a center for an enormous variety of West African flora, some of which is found nowhere else.
The main threats to wildlife in the Lebialem Highlands are caused by forest conversion to farmland and habitat fragmentation that could lead to the local extinction of the many globally threatened species that are found there.
As in other parts of Africa, poaching of elephants and other wildlife together with marginalised local economies pose serious challenges to conservation. Forest Elephants and primates are critical for ecosystems to function, serving as essential “forest gardeners” that disperse seeds over long ranges through their fruit-based diets. Without them, rainforest trees are unable to regenerate or maintain diversity.
The local communities involved in this project include four principal ethnic groups, namely the Bangwas, Mbos, Mundanis and the Mocks.
Mostly farmers, hunters and gatherers, these groups collectively make up a population of over 45,000 people from 22 villages.
Thanks to the generous support of our Board members and other supporters who cover all of our operating expenses, Rainforest Trust is able to allocate 100% of donations to conservation action. No board member receives financial benefit and our staff salaries are modest.
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