Threat to Biodiversity in Mount Cameroon
Mount Cameroon is one of Africa's largest volcanoes, rising to 4,100 m above the coast of west Cameroon. It rises from the coast through tropical rainforest to a bare summit which is cold, windy, and occasionally brushed with snow. A large satellite peak, Etinde (also known as Little Mount Cameroon), is located on the southern flank near the coast. Mount Cameroon has the most frequent eruptions of any West African volcano. Towering within coastal lowland region the Cameroon Mountain, referred sometimes as “The Roof of Central and West Africa”, covers a surface area of about 1750 km2. The top of Fako lies approximately 4°13”N and 9°10”E. Mount Cameroon is a part of a volcanic chain lying in a direction SW- NE of “The Cameroon Line”. The formation is made up of the Gulf of Guinea volcanic islands, the West Cameroon Region with volcanoes like Mt. Cameroon, Mt. Manenguba, Mts. Bamboutos and Oku, the Tikar Plain with ancient volcanic masses. Mt. Cameroon Region in southwest Cameroon is one of the World Biodiversity Hot Spots, which means in its area, harbours one of the highest biodiversity in the world. These are not only different vegetation zones, but also a home for various unique plants (e.g. medicinal like Prunus Africana) and animal species living only under particular conditions, which can be met here. Mt. Cameroon Region is a home for many big animal species. Because of human pressure they are becoming rare but at the moment it is still possible to meet them here. In the tropical rainforest around the mountain and in the mountain rainforest on the slopes of Mount Cameroon tourists will find a wide variety of birds, butterflies and insects. Big animals include: Forest Elephant, White Collared Mangabey, Chimpanzee, Greater White Nosed Monkey, Drill, Preuss Monkey , Western Bushbuck , Western Bush Pig , Western Sitatunga, African Civet, Ogilby Duiker, Blue Duiker, Giant Pangolin etc others include; Cameroon Mountain Francolin (endemic species), Splendid Sunbird, Black Kite, Allied Hornbill, Pigmy Kingfisher, Pin Tailed Whydah, Blue Turaco Eagle, Uncountable lizards and chameleons. Due to it rich biodiversity species Mt Cameroon was designated a National park in 2010 to conserve these species. However activities programmed during the trip include: Biological survey of animal species.
Field trip organized on the 28th November to 01 of December 2016 in Mount Cameroon at the Bomboko cluster of Mt Cameroon involving villages, such as: Bomana, Kotto 1, Kotto 2, Bokosso, Ebie, Mondongo, Munyenge, Efolofo, Kuke Kumbu.
Aim: The aim of the field visit was to identify major activities carry out by local inhabitants and threats to biodiversity loss in the area.
· To identify major activities carry out by local inhabitants.
· To Identify major threats to biodiversity in the area
· Field observation and guided reconnaissance walk.
· Group discussion.
Results and discussion
1.To identify major activities carry out by local inhabitants.
The area is of great economic importance with its rich volcanic soils, it is one of the breadbaskets and an economic livewire of the country. Crops such as cocoa, palm, yams, plantains, coco yam, banana, maize, cassava, tomatoes and vegetables are produced in this part of the country. Most of these crops are taken to Douala and even as far as Gabon. Cocoa and palm are the main cash crops cultivated in the area. This area is one of the highest producers of cocoa and the population relies on cocoa as their main source of income to the population of the area. Peasant agricultural production takes place on small farms about 2 hectares in size. Shifting cultivation is the main mode of farming and the farmers intercrop cocoyams, maize, plantains, yams and vegetables. Women and children provide most of the labour for agricultural production and marketing. Farmers have access to family land and women can cultivate land that belongs to her family. Shifting cultivation requires low labour and is a natural method of restoring the fertility of an area. Though it posses problem and pressure on the forest in search of virgin land. Because shifting cultivation involves the opening up of new plots for agricultural activities. The Mount Cameroon area is dominated by the agro-industrial para-statal CDC. This institution has alienated much of the land from the indigenous Bakweri. There has also been significant in-migration to satisfy the labor needs of CDC.
Logging takes place in some concessions that have species to supply nearby saw mills using poor equipment, leading to forest degradation. Unsustainable logging practices also promote deforestation and forest degradation. Present logging practices are very destructive since extracting one cubic meter implies destroying more than two cubic meters, resulting in a significant change of the initial ecosystem. The trees exploited are not replaced through tree planting or reforestation leading to serious environmental problems. The exploration of prenus Africana for its medicinal value, Ricenodendron heudelottis and Gnetum africanum by residents of the area is also alarming this leads to deforestation and degradation. Logging is therefore done to provide raw material for carpentry industries in the area. This logging is done by farmers using engine saws. Since it is difficult to own new engine saws, most of the engine saws in this area are old and insufficient. As such it leads to much timber loss. The logging activities have exposed protected water catchments and lakes around the mountain leading to reduction of water in the catchment and in the lakes. Most of the rivers or streams which are fed with water from the catchment and the lakes dry up during the dry season. During the raining season water from the catchment and lakes over flow their banks, thereby supplying many rivers and streams during the raining seasons. This has caused serious water problem for domestic use and farming during the dry season.
2.To identify major threats and root causes to biodiversity loss in the area
The major pressures on biodiversity of in this area are high human population growth, economic decline and increasing levels of poverty. It is clear that these factors are influencing the environment and promoting the loss of biodiversity. The problems are linked with individual behaviors. Hunting in the Mount Cameroon area is carried out by means of wire snares and “dane guns,” which are locally manufactured single-barrel shotguns. Both types of hunting are nominally illegal but almost universally practiced. Bushmeat is sold fresh or smoked or in the form of ‘peper soup’. Fresh meat, which is the most common form for immediate consumption, is sold in local markets. Because smoking is the only means of conservation, hunters operating at distances of more than 15 km from their base smoke the meat on-site in the bush. Smoking also facilitates transportation and reduces the weight. Smoking, especially of big game, takes at least two days. Many consumers prefer smoked meat.
In the Mount Cameroon area, three different types of hunters as well as wildlife collectors operate:
Indigenous subsistence hunters: This type of hunter lives in the area and hunts for their subsistence in farms and in the local bush surrounding to supplement the family diet. Snares and dane guns are commonly used. Most of the animals caught in this manner are essentially farm-pests that breed rapidly.
Local hunters: This type of hunters are often a resident immigrant who forms part of the local community. As an immigrant, he may not possess land and depends to a greater extent than the subsistence farmers on hunting and trapping. A significant part of his catch is sold in the local market to “pepper-soup women,” who cook and serve this local specialty with bushmeat in roadside cafes. The tools used by this type of hunter are the same as those used by the subsistence farmer. Because both the indigenous and the local hunter are part of the local community, they are susceptible to community pressures.
Commercial hunters: The commercial hunter is a professional, full-time hunter. He is rarely part of the local community and therefore is not susceptible to local community pressures. He may arrive from as far away as 500 km of Mount Cameroon. He works in small, tribally homogeneous groups under a leader. He often comes from areas where hunting is a strong local tradition but which are too far from suitable markets. Interviews with professional hunters indicated that they had moved to the Mount Cameroon area from their tribal lands not because of wildlife abundance but because the recently constructed West Coast road providing quick and easy access to the major markets of Douala and Yaoundé where their meat is sold. Market accessibility is all-important and overrides actual abundance of game in determining where commercial hunting is carried out.
These hunters avoid the indigenous villages. Sometimes they are based in the “stranger” (ie non-indigenous) labor camps of CDC. They stay for weeks in the forest, hunting continually by day and night. Wire snares are used, but in this case they set in long fence traps which can extend for hundreds of meters or sometimes kilometers. They also use dane guns, but more frequently use modern shotguns and even automatic military weapons. The meat is dried and smoked. After remaining in the bush for many weeks, they leave for distant towns such as Douala or Yaoundé to sell their meat; very little is sold on the local market.
Wildlife collectors: since Mount Cameroon is a biodiversity hotspot and close to other mountains with high levels of endemism and protected wildlife areas such as Korup National Park, the area is popular with those involved in the wildlife trade. Unlike the bushmeat trade, where there is little knowledge of biodiversity, the wildlife trade depends on sophisticated knowledge of species. The numbers of people involved in the wildlife trade are lower than those in the bushmeat trade. Species collected include songbirds, parrots, tortoises, snakes, lizards, amphibians, aquarium fish, butterflies, beetles, and plants. Unlike the bushmeat trade, the exclusive destination of the wildlife trade is the developed world, with a strong demand from the United States.
A major cause of biodiversity loss in the Mount Cameroon region has been the activities of CDC. The development of plantations of rubber, palm oil, banana, and tea in the Mount Cameroon region has been a direct cause of the loss of biodiversity. Demand for these crops leads to the extension of plantations and to the reduction in land available for biodiversity. Furthermore, when plantations are incompatible with wildlife, as when elephants destroy young oil palms, the tendency is to destroy the wildlife.
A further cause of biodiversity loss in the Mount Cameroon region is CDC policy and practice. The CDC pays very low salaries to it workers thereby encourages there to resort to alternative in the forest through hunting, cutting, harvesting, to meet up with their livelihood. Unfortunately this is often not done in a sustainable manner.
The landscape of Bomboko cluster during field visit of Mount Cameroon