World (WWF) – “Poaching is a crime against the local communities and a global threat. We must take action against it,” Ambassador Stell told conservationists, traditional rulers and local government officials living around Lobeke.
Lobeke National Park is part of the Tri-national de la Sangha (TNS) landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage site, grouping protected areas in Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville and Central African Republic. The park is rich in flora and fauna yet threatened by poaching, illegal and unsustainable exploitation of wood. “It is our responsibility to preserve this world heritage site. The local people must be integrated in the management of the park if we hope to succeed in the fight against poaching,” the diplomat said.
“The government and the people of Germany are committed to support Cameroon’s conservation and development efforts as long as results are there for all to see and corruption is effectively fought,” Dr. Stell said.
Hard hit by poaching
Wildlife inventory data presented by WWF and Cameroon’s wildlife ministry in 2016, showed that Lobeke lost 50% of its elephant population (from an estimated 2091 in 2002 to 1029 in 2015) due to poaching and ivory trade. Lobeke conservation service revealed that, in 2016, 27 guns (7 of them Kalashnikov) as well as 15 elephant tusks were seized from poachers. Since 2010, two rangers have lost their lives, while three others and a soldier, as well as two members from the local community have been injured in clashes with poachers.
The German government through the German Development Bank (KfW) and the Tri-National de la Sangha (TNS) Foundation have provided financial support for Lobeke to fight poaching and promote sustainable development. An additional 5.5 million euros have been mobilized to protect the park and put in place sorely needed infrastructure. Ambassador Stell, during his visit, handed the keys of two Land Cruiser vehicles to the Conservator for Lobeke, signaling his country’s support to Cameroon’s conservation efforts.
“With 48 rangers charged with protecting 700 000 ha of forest ecosystem, fighting poaching is a huge challenge,” said Achille Mengamenya, Conservator for Lobeke. “We seek to improve the working conditions of rangers so they can effectively protect the park. Our dream is also to make Lobeke a tourist destination,” the Conservator said. Formalizing agreements guaranteeing the user rights of local people, especially indigenous people (Baka), building infrastructure and providing electricity and a health centre for the local people are among the projects envisaged by the conservation service.
WWF is committed to and has over the years played a pivotal role in the various processes for putting in place institutional and logistical framework in safeguarding the park. “We will continue to work with key partners to curb poaching and contribute to improving the livelihood of local people,” says Cleto Ndikumagenge, WWF Cameroon Conservation Director.
This report prepared by WWF.