Statement on the situation of wildlife in the Congo Basin (and in Cameroon in particular) - Resolving Conservation Conflicts in West/Central African Protected Areas

This is a summary of the discussions held during the 2019 October workshop, “Resolving Conservation Conflicts in West/Central African Protected Areas” in Yaoundé, Cameroon

Wildlife populations are collapsing inside and outside protected areas throughout Western Equatorial Africa. In Cameroon, there has been a significant decline in large mammal populations in savannah and forest habitats. Top predators are disappearing even from national parks, which are supposed to receive the highest levels of protection. Some years ago, Cameroon lost its last cheetahs and likely its last African wild dogs.

 

The future of other large carnivores is hanging in the balance, and Cameroon could soon see the lion go extinct, a symbol of strength and power, and the symbol of sports teams in Cameroon, including the national soccer team.  Forest primates, our closest relatives in the animal world, also face a looming risk, with over 50% of primate species threatened with extinction. Populations of Cross River gorillas, drills and Preuss’s red colobus monkeys, some of Africa’s most endangered primate species that are found primarily in Cameroon, have declined significantly over the last decade. African forest elephants have undergone dramatic declines of up to 90%, and some populations are locally extinct. These declines are not limited to large mammals but have also been reported for several bird species.

 

We are a group of scientists, including faculty members from respected universities in Cameroon and abroad, representatives of protected areas management units, law enforcement organisations, and international organisations. In October 2019, we met in Yaoundé to assess the current status of conservation in the country and discuss innovative, sustainable, and community-based ways forward to solve what we consider to be a conservation crisis. Based on our combined experience, which encompasses both the social and the ecological sciences, and the data presented at this workshop and in the literature, it is clear that, in many ways, conservation in Cameroon is failing. But many opportunities exist for a more positive future.

 

Some of the threats to nature and wildlife in Cameroon include poaching of protected species and unsustainable hunting, illegal wildlife trade, and the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat. Increased bushmeat hunting to meet rampant demands of a growing urban population has become unsustainable and is currently a major force driving the decline of a large number of species, most notably arboreal primates and duiker antelopes. The illegal trade of wildlife as pets or for body parts (including ivory and pangolin scales) also directly threaten populations. Mining, dam construction, unsustainable logging, and the expansion of large-scale agriculture such as oil palm plantations are reducing the extent of wildlife habitat, converting them into isolated fragments. All these different threats act synergistically, aggravating wildlife population declines and disrupting the free ecological services that these natural areas provide to millions of people.

 

These threats are affecting the local people as well as all the areas where we work in Cameroon. From our research, experience, and observations, it is difficult to believe that there is currently even a single area of forest, including protected areas, that is untouched by poaching with cable snares or guns, or other forms of habitat degradation. This does not only imperil ecological integrity but is also a threat to the wellbeing of Cameroonians through the disruption and loss of environmental services. Conservation is not a luxury. Wildlife and nature play an essential role in the livelihoods, cultures, and religions of the Cameroonian people living in rural areas. The current conservation crisis could lead to a food security crisis among vulnerable communities, including indigenous people. Local cultures and religions have formed complex relations with nature and wildlife. Thus, the loss of the Cameroonian natural heritage would in turn severely affect its rich cultural heritage. The country is also losing an important potential source of foreign income through ecotourism.

 

We conclude that the current crisis will not be solved unless there is political will and investment at multiple levels: legal, financial, educational, and social. We call for an increased commitment to developing a national legal framework based on scientific evidence, revising outdated laws, and speeding up legal processes for reviewing laws and legal procedures for conservation, and to change the current paradigm of conservation as a whole. For example, protected species catalogues must be updated to be in line with current scientific evidence.  Science must also inform the design of conservation projects, decisions, and actions. We propose that the social, economic, and ecological outputs and impacts of conservation initiatives must be rigorously monitored and evaluated by an external body, and standardised monitoring and evaluation protocols must be developed and implemented within an adaptive management cycle. Such monitoring and scientific evidence could help using the limited resources available for conservation more wisely, but we also need strong prioritisation of the available resources to prevent critically endangered species from extinction.

 

Equally important will be to professionalise, diversify, and support protected area management. Protected areas are one of the cornerstones for conservation but currently suffer from inadequate infrastructure and equipment, unmotivated personnel and poor management, as well as a general lack of support from surrounding human populations who have been previously excluded from conservation processes. For this, all protected areas must have ratified management plans that are achievable. Local communities must be consulted and involved not only in developing such plans but also in their implementation. Currently, most managers find themselves trying to solve problems at the programmatic level, rather than focusing on small level changes suggested by local community members and supported by interested organisations. Management plans can be developed considering the site-specific characteristics rather than trying to follow globally implemented models. Consequently, novel methods and approaches to management must be explored and tested out. Management can become adaptive by including regular and independent monitoring to inform and adjust management actions.

 

This will not only help improve the success of protected area management and resource management but will also ensure its accountability and transparency. It is important to add that protected area management must be led by people with the required technical proficiency paired with government staff. This should also include innovative approaches to protected area management including delegated management models under public-private partnerships. There is already good in-country expertise that can be used. However, we believe that training in conservation science must continue being supported and improved. We call for curricula development of conservation science at the local academic institutions, with the inclusion of field courses and fostering interdisciplinary training for diverse students. Finally, we recommend the establishment of a Wildlife Research Institute to support this and all the above-proposed measures to improve conservation in Cameroon. Such an institution could become a hub of research, education, management and policy-development for conservation and be the seat of an independent body in charge of monitoring conservation initiatives in the country.

We urge the government and other relevant stakeholders to draw attention to this crisis and encourage them to jointly develop and commit to practical solutions that can help the nature and the people of Cameroon.

For more Information, please, download the Document here below:

Go back

Partners News

Local community engagement, strong policy signals and long-term financing key ingredients for forest restoration – WWF Panda

New report shows the long-term benefits of restoring forests outweigh the costs. The long-term benefits of restoring forests outweigh the costs, and this is a key factor in driving the implementation of forest landscape restoration (FLR) in many countries, a new WWF and IUFRO study finds.

Taking stock of three years of implementation of payments for environmental services in Côte d’Ivoire - EU REDD Facility

Payments for environmental services (PES) are at the heart of Côte d’Ivoire’s REDD+ and forest policies, which aim to restore and conserve the country’s forest cover up to 20% of the country’s land area. The EU REDD Facility has analysed the experience and lessons learnt from two innovative pilot projects, which tested several PES models aimed at restoring forest cover in cocoa landscapes. I have the pleasure of sharing with you the results of this analysis.

Getting the incentives right. Why partnership agreements should be at the heart of EU efforts to end deforestation – FERN

The publication comes on the heels of the European Parliament’s report An EU legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation, adopted on 22 October. Such a regulation will only be effective if accompanied by action to tackle the drivers of forest loss and human rights violations on the ground. Getting the incentives right suggests that the EU negotiate partnership agreements with major producers of forest risk commodities.

The november CBFP Flash News is available! Please check it out...

Read: CBFP Facilitator, Honorable Dr Christian Ruck, makes successful entrance into Congo Basin’s diplomatic and political scene; CBFP Facilitator, the Honourable Dr Christian Ruck, in audiences with high-ranking political leaders in Cameroon; 16 October 2020 – Implementation of N’Djamena Declaration in West Bloc gets major boost following visit of CBFP Facilitator of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Honourable Dr Christian Ruck…

PRESS RELEASE - OFAC launches its new analysis portal on Central African forest ecosystems

Yaoundé, Cameroon, 29 October 2020 - In order to encourage informed decision-making for sustainable forest management, conservation and responsible use of biodiversity in Central Africa, the Observatory of Central African Forests (OFAC), a technical unit of the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC), has set up a new analysis platform with key indicators of regional, national and local policy trends and their impacts on forest ecosystems.

CBFP technical and financial partners based in Kinshasa gather around CBFP Facilitator of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Honourable Dr Christian Ruck

Kinshasa, 12 October 2020 - A meeting of technical and financial partners based in Kinshasa was held at the Pullman Hotel in Kinshasa with close to twenty participants, including: Donors, Technical and financial partners, The private sector,  Research institutions.

16 October 2020 – Implementation of N’Djamena Declaration in West Bloc gets major boost following visit of CBFP Facilitator of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Honourable Dr Christian Ruck…

The meeting of the West Bloc Coordination Platform will hold on 26 January 2021. Such was the conclusion of the meeting of partners and countries of the West Bloc Coordination Platform for monitoring the implementation of the N’Djaména Declaration.

Two new programmes in Gabon – CAFI

Gabon is pursuing a low-carbon development strategy that optimizes economic goals while preserving forests and their ecosystems. The country has therefore committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% within 2025 through sustainable land-use. Tackling forest degradation, often a result of illegal logging, is essential to reducing Gabon's carbon emissions, as such degradation accounts for 50-80% of the country's total emissions.

Enhancing transparency and accountability – CAFI

GENEVA, 7 October 2020 – Revising the operating procedures of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI) is an endeavour that started earlier this year and has just received valuable recommendations from a new report by Transparency International (TI). Acknowledging the work achieved on transparency and integrity while identifying areas for improvement, the report released today by TI provides useful input into the process.

The brand Fair & Precious is celebrating its third anniversary and keeps on developing! - ATIBT

All ATIBT members, regardless of their status, are reminded that they can become partners of the brand simply as members of the Association.Created in November 2017 at the initiative of the International Tropical Timber Technical Association (ATIBT), and with the support of AFD and KfW, Fair&Precious is a collective and collaborative brand.

VPA FLEGT Gabon: UFIGA works for the resumption of vpa flegt negotiations between Gabon and the European Union - ATIBT

Within the framework of the FLEGT-Certification program of ATIBT, the UFIGA requested and directed the realization of a review of the situation of the VPA FLEGT process in Gabon in order to contribute to an effective resumption of negotiations of the VPA FLEGT process.

White Paper: Build back better in a post-COVID-19 world – Reducing future wildlife-borne spillover of disease to humans

This white paper aims to provide Northern and Southern Development partners and decision- makers with a better understanding of: a) why spillover of disease from wildlife to humans occurs, and why these zoonotic disease outbreaks can spread and become epidemics and pandemics such as COVID-19; b) what they can do to prevent, detect and respond to future spillover events, with a special focus on priority interventions at the human–wildlife–livestock interfaces.

Final Reports: United Nations Biodiversity Summit

The Summit focused on the theme “Urgent Action on Biodiversity for Sustainable Development,” to highlight the urgency of action at the highest levels in support of a post-2020 GBF that contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) and places the global community on a path towards realizing the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity, “Living in harmony with nature.”

The Evolving War on Illegal Wildlife Trade - IISD

Illegal trafficking and unsustainable trade in wildlife are causing unprecedented declines in some species. They can also potentially lead to the spread of zoonoses, such as SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. While the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has been in force since 1975, there are growing calls to build a stand-alone international instrument to address illegal wildlife trade and crime.