by Peter Ngea
A new park created by the Cameroonian government that encompasses the highest mountain in West and Central Africa will help protect some of the rarest ecosystems in the Congo Basin.
The government of Cameroon recently signed a decree creating the 58,178 hectare Mount Cameroon National Park, which includes the 4,095-metre high Mount Cameroon – also one of the largest active volcanoes on the African continent.
"A park of such importance will help animal populations to rebuild," said Atanga Ekobo, Manager of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Coastal Forest Project, which covers the region. "It will also encourage the sustainable use of natural resources by introducing and promoting alternative sources of income to the local communities."
Mount Cameroon is an important refuge and home to many species found nowhere else, including high numbers of plants. A very isolated population of forest elephant also lives there.
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For many years, poor land-use planning, land clearance, increasing agriculture, and the bushmeat trade damaged the area’s forest resources and high biological diversity.
But if well managed, the new park will both conserve the remaining natural richness of this fragile ecosystem and improve the livelihoods of local people, according to WWF.
About 300,000 people live the area, which provides them with large amounts of non-timber forest products, protects their water supplies and shelters sacred sites for many traditional communities.
In addition, Mt. Cameroon has a great potential for eco-tourism, according to WWF. The conservation organization expects the creation of the park will increase this potential.
"Cameroon is once again showing its will to protect and properly manage the environment," said Natasha K. Quist, Regional Director of WWF in Central Africa. "The park has been created in an area where human activity has been intense over the years and the management plan will be developed with the participation of local villagers to define how they can still use their natural resources."
The Regional Delegate of Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry and Fauna (MINFOF) in the South West Region, and coordinator of the Programme for the Sustainable Management of Natural Resources (PSMNR), Mbah Grace, on her part notes that "The classification of Mount Cameroon National Park is indeed a great achievement which will go a long way to add value to the rich and famous biodiversity of the area." She notes that this provides a wonderful opportunity to reinforce the development of ecotourism in the park that will lead to the balancing of conservation and the highly needed development in the area.
Creation of the new Mt Cameroon National Park is the result of intense efforts and collaboration since 2007 between MINFOF and WWF, with the financial support of the German Cooperation (KfW). WWF-Sweden, the North Carolina Zoological Park and the North Carolina Zoological Society also provided specific support to track and monitor activities of three forest elephants through satellite tracking collars.
About the author:
Peter Ngea is the Communication Manager for the World Wildlife Fund - Central African Region.
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