Cameroon Government through the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF), has officially declared her intention to move the proposed Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary in the Lebialem Division, Southwest Cameroon, into a protected area.
This information was made known through a Public Notice issued early February, 2017. The Public Notice informs adjacent communities to the proposed protected area, as well as other stakeholders of Government’s plans to transform this biodiversity hotspot hitherto used customary by the local people into a permanent forest estate. This according to the Notice, is to ensure the conservation and appropriate management of the richness and critical biodiversity of this area by the state and other partners.
The proposed Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary is an over 7000 hectares forest area located between longitudes 586000m and 596000m and latitude 598000m and 606000m. It is host to over 300 Nigeria Cameroon chimpanzees (one of the biggest chimpanzee density in Western Cameroon), over 100 forest elephants (the most northern range of African forest elephants within the Southwest Region of Cameroon), Drills, Cross River gorilla, bush baby, Blue duiker, Red River hog, red eared monkey and Mona Monkey amongst others. The area is also home to some unknown plant species as well as globally threatened birds species like the Cameroon montane greenbul, crossley’s ground thrush, Bangwa forest warbler, Green breasted bush shrike and Red headed picathartes. Contiguous to the Bayang Mbo Wildlife Sanctuary, this biodiversity hotspot is surrounded by close to seven fondoms, with three located in the Lebialem Division, and the rest in the Kupe Muanenguba Division.
The gazetting process of the proposed Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary is being facilitated by a Buea based Cameroon’s leading conservation non-profit Organisation, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF). In an interview granted The Green Vision recently, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Organisation, Louis Nkembi said government’s declaration of intent to gazette this biodiversity hotspot is a significant milestone to the conservation process. The ERuDeF boss expressed gratitude to the Cameroon Government for such a move.
“I will like to say thank you to MINFOF for recognizing the work that we have been doing here since 2008. This is a clear indication that the government remains committed to saving the last species of our great apes, wildlife and globally threatened species where ever they are found in Cameroon” he said.
Mr. Louis recounts the path treaded so far; “When we launched the process for the creation of the Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary in late 2013, the procedures as outline by the government of Cameroon through the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, include amongst others the preparation and production of a scientific and technical report that describes the richness of this forest area. This was prepared and forwarded to the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife. The next stage was for the Cameroon Government through her technical department, to officially declare to the world and most especially the people living around the area that it has been selected for protection, and this, the government has just done”
The issuing of the Public Notice according to the ERuDeF vision driver, has paved the way for the compilation of the final document that will be put together and submitted to the PM’s office for the final and eventual creation of the Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary. To get to this point, he disclosed that ERuDeF is supporting MINFOF officials (both national and regional authorities) to move through the process of village to village sensitization, which will culminate in the holding of the divisional commission for the classification of the Mak-Betchou Wildlife Sanctuary. This will be held in Menji under the auspices of the Senior Divisional Officer of Lebialem.
“After the divisional classification meeting, the final document will be pulled together and transmitted through the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife to the PM’s Office, where there will be eventual validation and signature in case there are no oppositions,” Mr. Nkembi added.
The process is hoped to be completed by December 2017.
ERuDeF boss expressed profound gratitude to Rainforest Trust-USA “for providing funding for this major endeavour,” and to all local stakeholders who have been involved in this process that seeks to make Mak-Betchou one of the most beautiful biodiversity hotspots that will in turn generate income and employment opportunities for the people around this area.
By Bertrand Shancho Ndimuh