Anti-poaching measures show encouraging signs of recovery in Nki National Park
Until only a few years ago, it also boasted of one of the highest densities of forest elephants in Central Africa. However, with poaching of elephants and demand for ivory skyrocketing over the last few years, the number of forest elephants has dropped drastically. A WWF 2016 wildlife survey report stated that Nki National Park had witnessed a drastic decline in its elephant population; from over 3000 individuals in 2005 to barely 500 in 2015. This represents an 85% drop in the elephant population.
This fuelled fears that Nki National Park could have no elephants left in as little as five years’ time, and the case is similar in neighbouring Boumba-Bek National Park. According to Hanson Njiforti, Country Director of WWF Cameroon, elephants have never been more in danger in protected areas in the Southeast as they are now. “It was disheartening to see that we have been losing elephants at such a dramatic rate,” said Njiforti. “We have had to change strategy and act fast to protect elephants and what they represent for wildlife, forests and communities.”
With the help of WWF, the park’s conservation service has set up a satellite camp for rangers and rebuilt a nearby watchtower. Government eco-guards are permanently stationed in the park and conduct regular anti-poaching patrols in the surrounding zones. Additionally, a wildlife monitoring team spends at least 15 days inside the park every month to try and halt the decline. New camera trap images have shown that our efforts start to pay off.
“Our effort is beginning to yield fruits again,” says Gilles Etoga, WWF Programme Manager for Jengi TRIDOM (the Tri-National Dja-Odzala-Minkébé transborder forest, spread over Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and Gabon). “For the past two months we have recorded zero poaching signs. We now witness almost on a daily basis, an impressive number of animals visiting the Ikwa clearing during the day and in the night,” Gilles added. And recently installed camera traps have shown elephants, chimps and even a leopard frequenting the area.
Wildlife caught on camera trap images in Nki National Park will help provide important information on population behaviour in the park, and provide a source of hope that, given time and space, wildlife in the region can recover. However poachers are always looking for possible opportunities so it is important that our work continues to strengthen protection. “We have to be prepared for poachers to continue or even intensify their efforts , so we need to work to address that,” states Gilles.
WWF has been working in Cameroon since the 1990’s and is committed to working with local people to ensure that these precious forest areas are protected, and that both people and wildlife can thrive in the region. Spanning more than 47 million hectares, Cameroon has as rich a diversity of people and cultures as it does of landscapes and wildlife. Indigenous people which include BaAka, Baka, Bagyéli, Bakola, Bedzang and Mbororos make up 10 percent of the country’s population of 23 million people. For centuries, these communities have conserved their traditional way of life, customs and culture, possessing a unique identity and precious inter-generational knowledge of preserving natural resources. WWF has played a key role in creating community forests and sustainable hunting zones in Cameroon. This helps ensure indigenous peoples can maintain strong ties with the lands where they’ve lived for centuries, as well providing them employment and an income. And, of course, it also gives them a strong stake in protecting the forest and its wildlife.