After 10 years of conservation action and preparations, Prime Minister of Cameroon Philémon Yang has signed a Decree to officially create Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in South West Cameroon.
Besides the critically endangered Cross River gorilla, this landscape is also home to the most endangered African chimpanzee and other endangered wildlife, such as the Drill and elephants.
Great apes and other wildlife species are under pressure from hunting and the bushmeat trade, as well as habitat loss due to human encroachment. Indirect causes include local poverty and the absence of a regulated law enforcement system.
Although great ape conservation activities by fieldworkers proved to be effective, conservation threats will only be sustainable reduced when the number of local anti-poaching staff is increased and the conservation areas become effectively gazetted by the government.
“The establishment of the new Cross River gorilla sanctuary is an exciting and important milestone and achievement for the local team”, says Arend de Haas, director of the African Conservation Foundation.
Since 2004, the African Conservation Foundation (ACF) has been working in a partnership with the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) in the Tofala-Mone Forest Landscape. Major successes include the discovery of new Cross River gorilla populations in the Tofala-Mone Forest Corridor, the launch of a great apes monitoring programme, the creation of community management structures and successful education and livelihood projects in the project area.
Habitat fragmentation due to the expansion of agriculture and palm oil plantations is one of the biggest threats to great apes conservation in the forest landscape.
“Fragmented gorilla and chimpanzee populations, if not linked through appropriate biological corridors, are prone to inbreeding and diseases”, says Louis Nkembi, president of ERuDeF. “Genetic inbreeding may very rapidly lead to the local extinction of these globally important species”.
The corridor project will lead to creating a genetic linkage between the different great apes populations and increase community involvement in the management of the conservation units in the area.
Cross River Gorilla
The Cross River gorilla is the most western and northern form of gorilla. Cross River gorillas differ from other lowland gorillas in their physical appearance, their diet and local tool culture (tool use) and their more terrestrial lifestyle.
While all western gorillas are Critically Endangered – in the case of the western lowland gorilla due in part to Ebola virus – the Cross River gorilla is the most endangered of the African apes. It is one of the world’s 25 most endangered primates according to the IUCN Primate Specialist Group.
Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the mountainous north-eastern part of South West Province in Cameroon. The new sanctuary has a surface area of over 8000ha. The rainforest in this area is considered a global biodiversity hotspot.
Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary is the third protected area fully designed to protect Cross River Gorillas, coming after the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary and Takamanda National Park.
The project consortium includes conservation organisations in the UK, Europe and across the world, a global partnership dedicated to providing technical support and funding to local conservationists involved in the protection of this globally important biodiversity hotspot.
Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary would not exist without the financial support of private donors and supporters.
The project partners would like to thank the Taipei Representative Office and the Taiwan Forestry Bureau for their continued support and commitment to Cross River gorilla conservation.
For more information please contact: