Eight French eco-tourists from Maisons du Monde NGO were recently thrilled by the enormity of ERuDeF’s projects in the Tofala area, Lebialem Division, South West Region.
By Bertrand Shancho Ndimuh
“I am really impressed by the good work ERuDeF is doing in this area to help conserve the rainforest and its biodiversity. We watched the project documentaries and also went through the different projects. Their effort is commendable,” said Stephanie Cutourier, one of the eco-tourists
The tourists had visited ERuDeF project sites in Tofala and actively participated in project promotional activities like local wildlife postcards production with students and pupils of school environmental clubs in Bechati.
They also planted agroforestry trees to conserve the major source of potable water in Bechati, donated books to schools in some Tofala forest adjacent communities, bio-monitored apes as well as monitored camera traps to acquire data that will help in establishing trends of wildlife species in the area.
The eco-tourists equally participated in local soap production and visited the Besali oil mill.
The eco-tourists were also delighted by ERuDeF’s conservation actions in the Tofala rainforest.
“Apart from the nests, feeding signs, dung of chimpanzees and gorillas, which we recorded during bio-monitoring, we saw chimpanzees and how they were shaking trees so many metres away from us. Some of us were lucky to see a monkey. We also inspected some camera traps that ERuDeF bio-monitors set up in the rainforest and were excited when we saw many primates like chimpanzees, bush cats, monkeys. However, this excitement lessened when suddenly we saw two hunters with guns in the camera trap,” said Jennifer Pichard, the coordinator of the team.
This, according to Pichard, is an indication that ERuDeF action is more than ever necessary to protect the primates.
Barreau Sophie and Perrin Virginie were no less elated by ERuDeF’s conservation education and tree planting effort.
“I think ERuDeF is doing a lot to sensitize the younger ones on the importance of conservation. We were very happy working with the children to produce postcards,” they said.
Meanwhile, the Senior Divisional Officer (SDO) for Lebialem, Kouemo Simon, welcomed the eco-tourists at Menji, seeing their visit as a way of bringing the Division to the limelight both nationally and internationally.
The SDO said the visit of the French eco-tourists would make the local population understand that government’s reason to gazette the Proposed Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary is to make the Division an eco-tourism destination.
“The Tofala forest has some species of monkeys, gorillas, chimpanzees that are endemic to the area and lovers of nature or researchers on any wildlife; be it plants or animals will not be disappointed visiting this area,” the SDO said.
For his part, the traditional ruler of Bechati, Fon Nkemtaji Jerry, was happy to welcome the eco-tourists to his village.
“We are proud of the forest and very happy when people like you leave your country to come and research in our forests. This means that the forest has started yielding dividends to my community,” Fon Nkemtaji said.