The Area - Threats
Some local communities face abject poverty
land-use planning; coastal development; poaching;
lack of financial and human resources to efficiently patrol and manage the park;
poverty and marginalization of some native groups; absence of a management plan in most of the logging concessions; and
gaps in the scientific monitoring of, and information on, the status and distribution of the area's wildlife.
Land use planning
There are various problems linked to land-use planning around Campo-Ma'an. For example, the park's boundaries overlap with some areas used by indigenous communities for their traditional activities. The territory of some villages lies now within the park, while in other cases, it has been reduced by the establishment of a logging concession on the edge of the protected core zone. In addition, most of the population living around the park ignores its boundaries. There is also direct conflict between HEVECAM and the government about a concession overlapping within a sector of the park.
The mostly sandy, largely forested, and unspoiled shoreline between Kribi and Campo is unique in Cameroon. Rich businessmen from Douala and Yaounde are aware of this, and have started buying plots that they plan to develop in the future. They are speculating on the development of tourism in the area, especially since Kribi's beautiful beaches and resort hotels are the gateway to the Campo-Ma'an region, and already a favourite tourist destination in Cameroon.
A new airport is being built close to the beaches and there are plans to pave the gravel coastal road to Campo and Equatorial Guinea. If this happens, there is a risk that the valuable coastal forests will be converted into luxurious beach resorts.
Bushmeat is a main source of protein, as well as an increasing source of revenue for the local population. Hunting occurs all year round. Although only a minority of the population is actively hunting, the extent of this activity poses a real threat to the fauna of the region. Hunting is illegal within the park's boundaries. In the buffer zone, small-scale subsistence hunting is tolerated.
Cameroonian law prohibits - in some cases severely restricts - the game and bush meat trade. However, professional hunters - many of them immigrants from regions where fauna has already been decimated - do not hesitate to break the law.
In addition, the infrastructure needed by logging and agro-industrial companies make it easier for poachers to smuggle bush meat. For example, poachers can access the markets of big cities by using the regular transport of timber and agro-industrial products to urban centres. Some of the workers in the logging concessions and agro-industrial plantations increase their revenues through poaching.
Lack of human and financial resources
With only one guard to watch over 30,000ha, the park's conservation office lacks the adequate human resources and equipment to efficiently patrol and manage the park and its buffer zone. In addition, financial resources allocated to the park by the State are too limited to run essential activities such as awareness raising and scientific research.
Poverty and marginalization of some indigenous communities
The multitude of stakeholders with often divergent interests (i.e. local communities, conservation office, logging and agro-industrial companies) makes it very complex to manage the Campo-Ma'an area. Some of the local communities are facing abject poverty, which prevents them from fulfilling basic needs, such as education, shelter, and access to basic medical care.
As a result, many communities favour short-term solutions - including poaching or illegal felling of trees - to their socio-economic problems, which in turn increases pressure on natural resources.
The local population is still trying to come to terms with the authority's distinction between the use of wildlife for local consumption (which is authorized) and its use for commercial purposes (which is either prohibited or severely restricted). This distinction results in repeated conflicts with the conservation office. Furthermore, the sporadic destruction of crops by elephants, gorillas, and chimpanzees increases the skepticism of local communities vis-à-vis conservation.
Given its minimal resources, the park's conservation office tends to prioritize patrolling over consulting with, and raising awareness of, local people. This also adds to the feeling of frustration towards the park. Neighbouring populations believe the protected area does not contribute enough to the local economy because its potential economic value, in particular tourism, is not adequately marketed.
The marginalization of the Bagyeli pygmies by other native groups and the immigrants is another major problem. Access to health care and education facilities is often denied to the Bagyeli, who also face many difficulties in accessing resources. In addition, they feel that the ban on hunting within the national park is unfair to them.
It is true that their traditional way of life does not threaten the park, but the local authorities are convinced that pygmies sometimes work hand in hand with professional hunters. This has resulted in a situation where misunderstanding prevails, making conservation efforts more difficult.
Logging concessions could contribute to the conservation of Campo-Ma'an National Park if they were exploited in a responsible way according to a sound management plan, and accompanied with an environmental impact assessment. Unfortunately, only one of the four logging concessions currently exploited in the buffer zone has a management plan.
Gaps in the scientific research
There are still many gaps in the scientific knowledge of the Campo-Ma'an area. Existing studies cover only a part of the park. The absence of a documentation centre, a monitoring system, and a geographical information system makes it hard to assess the status of animal populations and how the whole ecosystem is reacting to external pressure from human activities.
It is also difficult to assess the results of anti-poaching measures. More comprehensive scientific data are also crucial to develop ecotourism projects. The current gaps hamper the search for sustainable solutions to improve the management of Campo-Ma'an and its buffer zone.