In the midst of the dreadful Anglophone crisis, most Forest Rangers have been caught up in what can be termed a “bitter ordeal”. Wildlife in Anglophone Cameroon on its part has also been stranded in between two dreadful crises (the Anglophone crisis and Covid-19).
In the Lebialem Highlands, Eco guards have had their hearts in their hands, as while saving wildlife, their own lives have been at stake, especially with frequent military and secessionist raids in and around conservation areas, coupled with the covid-19 pandemic. These guards working in the Tofala Wild Life sanctuary area have recounted bitter tales.
They all recounted that, their guns have been seized, their main sources of livelihood destroyed, and wildlife conservation nearly impossible. They revealed that, law enforcement in their areas of operation is in the hands of secessionist fighters, with Schools, markets and hospitals have been destroyed. They also lamented that, they cannot sell their crops and their villages are in total calamity.
One of them explained, “New farms have been created in the sanctuary, most families have been displaced, there have been an increase of unwanted pregnancy and little or no medical facilities. I depend only on my farm for survival. My children have all stopped schooling as there are no schools. I don’t even know where some of my children are, as some of them ran away from the village.”
Another Forest Ranger who voted anonymity revealed that, poaching by gun has reduced drastically because local hunter’s guns have been seized by secessionist fighters to fight the military, however trapping has increased. He also revealed that, there has been a big increase in the number of gorillas, chimpanzees and other animals. “They come right down to my farm and feed on plantain stocks and banana stocks”. He noted.
While in some areas, encroachment into the forests have greatly reduced because of the presence of secessionist fighters, who are said to be in control of most of these areas and are very unforgiving to anyone who encroaches into wildlife, talk less of hunting, other wildlife areas have been invaded by the internally displaced, who compete with animals for food and shelter.
Despite these major challenges, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation remains determined in saving biodiversity and protecting wildlife. ERuDeF is presently working on lasting solutions that will protect the integrity of these sanctuaries, while considering the security and future of these Eco guards.