See link for photo.
The fallout of the ongoing sociopolitical unrest in the Anglophone regions, has seen over a good number of persons seeking refuge in the forests and bushes, with some establishing settlements.
This invasion, according to environmentalists, pose a threat to animal habitat especially the future of some endangered species in forests or parks within the North West and the South West region.
Coordinator of an environmental nongovernmental organisation and Award winning Environmental journalist Regina Leke, explains that the Cross River gorilla (found in forests along the Cameroonian-Nigerian border of Cross River State), like many other gorilla subspecies, prefers a dense forest habitat that is uninhabited by humans.
Due to the Cross River gorilla’s body size they require large and diverse areas of the forest to meet their habitat requirements.
To her, they risk migrating, which can easily lead to extinction. “It’s a specie that is found only in that part of the world and they are less than 300 of them in the wild. With the current crisis, many people have moved to the forests, minus those who are seeking shelter in the forests. Most of these areas have become the camps of separatist fighters. I take for example the camps of Lebialem Division, which has some of these Cross River gorillas. It is at the highlands in a protected area that the government created in 2014. Now the Red Dragons are like the most dangerous separatist group. They are living in the forest and they are using some of these animals as food”, said Leke.
“Moreover they are establishing settlements, which reduces the habitat of the gorillas and other wildlife specie. So this can cause these animals to move, whereas migration is very dangerous for some species. Because when they migrate out of their comfort zones, some of them loss their lives, some find themselves in towns and are shot, some of them move to forest areas they are not used to and they end up dying. The crisis has affected endemic wildlife species”, continued Leke.
She regretted that another specie, Nigerian-Cameroon Chimpanzees around Oku as well as others were at risk.
“You cannot actually stop these persons from eating the animals because people have to feed. So what we can do is to join voices in calling on government to provide solutions to the ongoing crisis, so that life can return to normal and animals regain their place in the forests”.
Another concern raised by the environmental journalist is the fact that some protected areas have become very exposed, due to the absence of Eco-guards, who have all ran away, abandoning the parks. She mentioned the Takamanda park in Mamfe which has rare species like the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees.
“If a park is now exposed, the eco-guard that usually go there twice every month to do anti-poaching patrols to secure the forest, are no longer going there, imagine what is happening. Poachers even from different countries might exploit the area. Because we have what we call the trans boundary trade, which is a very dangerous activity to wildlife.
“They come, kill elephants, take their tusks in all impunity.
“What is happening at the Takamanda national park, is the same thing that is happening at the Korup national park in Mundemba, all eco-guards have fled, everybody is running for their lives”, said the environmentalist.
In order to preserve its wildlife, Cameroon created more than 20 protected reserves comprising of national parks, forest reserves, zoos and sanctuaries. In the Anglophone regions where people have fled their homes to forests, and Eco guards abandoning their roles, it is feared that the country might lose its most cherished species.