Central Africa Programme: Wildlife in the Jengi Project

Packed with wildlife, but under pressure...

More than 300 bird species are found in the forests, with a huge population of African grey parrots and several other species that can be found in only a few other places in the world.

The many rivers and swamps in the area provide a home to more than 121 fish species, three of which are new to science. Scientific studies indicate that there are about 250 butterfly species and more than 50 large mammal species.

"The forest vegetation is largely dense although broken at different points by forest clearings locally known by the Baka pygmy name of bais", says WWF’s Jengi Project Manager, Dr Leonard Usongo.

"There are also extensive marshes that are interwoven with uniform forest stands. The forest area is widely known for its unusually high population densities in various wildlife species notably elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, bongos and forest buffaloes."

"Of all the animals in this region, it is the elephant that is more entwined with the traditions of the people," notes Leonard. "The main town of the region is called Yokadouma, meaning the elephant never falls."

Elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis)
It is almost impossible to pass through the south-east of Cameroon without feeling the presence of elephants. At certain points at the edge of the Lobeke National Park it is impracticable to drive at night with the heavy elephant activity. WWF scientist for the region, Zacharie Nzooh says that Lobéké, Boumba Bek and Nki are important elephant habitats in the Central African region with a population of nearly 10,000.

“The secondary forest vegetation and swamps provides abundant items to sustain elephants in the region,” notes Zacharie. In addition, he says, “the bais with their natural salt licks and relatively rich nutrient soils also attract significant populations of elephants”.

Significantly, despite this abundance, cases of human and elephant conflicts are rare in the region. “Unfortunately, elephant hunting clearly remains a big problem in the area especially as logging road networks have opened most of the forest around the protected areas thereby granting quick and easy access to poachers and evacuation of bush meat to neighbouring and distant markets”, regrets the Project’s scientist.

Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)
The south-east region of Cameroon has thousands of gorillas. Studies are still underway to determine the exact figure, but the Lobeke National Park alone is host to about 5000.

The gorillas are attracted to the area by natural factors such as the vegetation and swamps. The gorillas are very much like humans and live in groups. More striking is their human attributes with the female always cuddling its siblings and the male playing the role of family head. They go out foraging mainly during the day and feed on fruits and nuts. One of the many sounds in the forest in the night is the peculiar snore of the gorilla.

“Unfortunately”, says Dr Usongo, “the gorilla is undoubtedly severely threatened by human activities, both directly as an occasional item on the bushmeat menu and perhaps more importantly, indirectly through loss of habitat by logging and agricultural encroachment”.

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodyte)
Chimpanzees like gorillas are also present in the South East of Cameroon, but not in as large a number. Aggressive and very acrobatic, the chimpanzee’s ability to adapt and imitate human lifestyle has made it vulnerable to pet and medical research trade.

It is not very common to see chimps everywhere in the Lobeke National Park for example. WWF Project Manager for the region explains “it is clear that chimpanzees in Lobéké are more abundant in the remoter zones of the forest. This, of course, comes as little surprise as chimpanzees do not like secondary vegetation as gorillas do.”

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