Cameroon Crater Lakes

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Lake Oku, a sacred crater lake in the Kilum Mountain Forest Mount Kilum, Cameroon.
© WWF-Canon / Meg GAWLER

About the Area

The Cameroon Volcanic Line is a northeast/southwest running zone of crustal weakness extending 1600 km from islands in the Atlantic into northwestern Cameroon and northeastern Niger. This region is home to a number of small and relatively young basaltic volcanoes. Numerous maars, which are circular craters produced by volcanic explosions, have formed in the area, due to the volcanic activity. Many of these maars have subsequently formed crater lakes, including Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun. They also include Barombi Mbo, Bermin, Dissoni/Soden, Benakouma, Kotto, and Mboandong. Most of these lakes are very small, with an area of less than two miles.

The ancient nature and isolation has led to an extremely high level of endemism in these lakes where over 75 per cent of the fish species and approximately one-third of the aquatic insects are endemic.

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Size:
These highland lakes dot a landscape covering an area of about 11,000 sq. km (4,200 sq. miles)

Habitat type:

Small Lakes

Geographic Location:
Western Africa: the highlands of Cameroon

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species

Many of the isolated crater lakes, including Bermin, Barombi Mbo, and Ejagham, are home to groups of cichlid fish species that descended from a common ancestor and dominate the fish fauna.

These include four endemic genera - Konia, Myaka, Pungu, and Stomatepia. Lake Dissoni contains its own unique species of shrimp. The fish-eating colubrid snake, Afronatrix anoscopus, lives in Lake Bermin. The aquatic fauna of Lake Benakouma remains largely unexplored.

Threats

Threats vary from lake to lake. For instance, Lake Barombi Mbo suffers from overfishing, deforestation, exotic species, and excessive water extraction. Others, like Lake Bermin, remain relatively undisturbed.

WWF’s work

Picking up the shattered shreds of a sacred forest: Kupe Forest, Cameroon
Mount Kupe, in Cameroon's southwest, covers an area of approximately 42km2 with an altitude that ranges from 600m to a high peak of 2064m. The forest is largely made up of evergreens and surrounded by 16 villages and towns with an estimated population of 140,000 inhabitants, predominantly of the Bakossi tribe.

The spirit of nationalism that gripped Cameroon between the 1950s and 1960s opened the once sacred Kupe forest to “sacrilege”. Slash and burn consumed large areas of the forest as people grabbed more hectares for farmland. Alongside the agriculturalists came the poachers and even loggers. The onslaught for the Kupe Forest was full scale.

The arrival of conservation organisations such as WWF evidently slowed down the pace of on-going destruction. Through sensitization campaigns, local communities came to understand that their livelihood s depended on the forest and its products. They are now conscious of the fact that the forest is all they have and that present and future generations stand to benefit provided there is better management.

Today, the traditional rulers and elders of the land are lining up behind WWF to weed out ruthless poachers and illegal loggers whose nefarious activities are seriously affecting rare tropical plant and animal species.

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