The Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary is three! It was created by a Prime Ministerial Decree Number 20145212 of September 29, 2014 for the conservation of some key bodiversity species. It includes, 40 Cross River Gorilla, over 150 Nigerian Cameroon Chimpanzees, unknown population of Drills and other biodiversity species.The birth of this 8,087 (Eight thousand and eighty seven) hectares protected area in Wabane and Alou Subdivisions in the Lebialem Division, Southwest Region was a great mile stone to the facilitating NGO, the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) and the conservation world. Besides, being the third Cross River gorilla site to be conserved in Cameroon, ERuDeF became the first national conservation NGO to facilitate the creation of a protected area.
Achievements so far
Three years down the lane, it is important to make retrospect on the path treaded so far, examine challenges and re-strategise for the effective realization of conservation goals in and around this protected area.
For the past three years, the Cameroon Government prides herself with the appointment of a Conservator and a team of Rangers who have since then been engaged in periodical patrols. Through her technical ministry, the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF), the Government has equally constituted a Technical Committee for the development of a management plan for the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (THWS).
At three, ERuDeF which facilitated the creation of this site, has been engaged in scientific research, community conservation education, livelihood supports and resources mobilisation. These activities have culminated in the procurement of a three year loan from Transpetrol Foundation that is being used for the development of a small holder palm oil project across communities in Tofala through the Silverback Company. The organisation also successfully secured funding from Rainforest Trust-USA for the elaboration and validation of a management plan and precipitated the putting in place of a technical committee by the Government.
At Tofala’s third birth day, ERuDeF and partners also take credit for training and equipping some nine government Eco-Guards and six community Eco-Guards with the necessary knowledge and tools like global positioning System (GPS), cyber trackers and camera traps, to crack down on deviant behaviours in and around the Sanctuary. This training, according to the Conservator of the Tafala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, Mr Thomas Njimin Amin, has contributed to reducing poaching within the protected area.
In the area of research, ERuDeF’s team of biologists alongside some six trained local ecoguards has within the last three years beefed up surveys in and around Tofala extending to areas that have hitherto never been covered due to logistic reasons like Egumbu, Bamumbu and Fossimondi.
Speaking to The Green Vision recently, ERuDeF’s Biologist, Gwendoline Angwa revealed that this additional survey
has led to the discovery of a group of the Nigerian Cameroon Chimpanzee and signs of the Cross River Gorilla in Fossimondi and some monkey species in Bamumbu. She indicated that, the research has led to the recording of several signs of wildlife threats like gun shells and new farms with some up to one hectare amongst others.
Miss Angwa said the data collected has been imputed into a data base which will be analysed and published in due course. This, according to her will influence government policy towards the effective management of this protected area.
Major challenges as the Sanctuary celebrates its third anniversary include the presence of active farm sites within the protected area, poaching, encroachment and illegal logging. The speedy development of the management plan and the valorisation of ecotourism and research at this site is equally a challenge.
At a mid-term anti-patrol and biomonitoring evaluation workshop, August 10, 2017, bringing together ERuDeF and MINFOF officials, both structures derived some strategies to surmount key challenges in and around Tofala
The team constituting of the Lebialem Devisional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife, the President/CEO of ERuDeF, the Conservator of Tofala, ERuDeF Biologists and other staff, Government and local rangers, resolved to Identify farm owners as well as geo-reference all farms within the protected area. They also agreed to jointly carry out continuous sensitisation in adjacent communities, with quit notices placed on farms, sign posts planted at the Sanctuary boundaries and regular patrol embarked on by both the Government and local Eco-guards. Meanwhile, the Conservator of Tofala, Mr. Amin Thomas, promised to develop project proposal requesting funds from MINFOF to support boundary demarcation. These were identified as key measures to combat encroachment into the protected area.
As far as poaching and illegal logging are concerned, law enforcement was going to be intensified via the identification and sensitization of poachers and illegal loggers on the wildlife law, seizures/removal of traps and snares and chain saws, arrest/prosecution, destruction of hunters hurt/collection of used gun shells as well as regular patrol.
Meanwhile the President /CEO of ERuDeF Louis Nkembi promised to prioritise farmers and poachers within the protected area in his organisation’s livelihood and economic development supports.
On the elaboration and management plan, Technical Committee members promised during their installation that by May 30, 2018, all ground works must have been completed and a developed management plan submitted to the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife.
Regarding the sustainable management of the Tofala Mone forest corridor, the Conservator of Tofala promised to work with the MINFOF Delegtion of Lebialem and Manyu, in collaboration with SEFECAM (logging company),, to ensure that community forests number 3 and 4 are created with support from ERuDeF and other partners
In the meantime, ERuDeF’s Chief Operating Officer of ERuDeF, Ursula Nkeng, has said feasibility studies are being carried out for the construction of an office based camp while contacts are already been made with engineers that will construct the camp.
Also, in partnership with International Trees Foundation, ERuDeF is working on a 15 year plan aimed at carrying out massive reforestation activities in the northern zone of the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary with the planting of some 15 million trees.