A team of scientists discover more hunting camps and artillery than animals during a trek through the Cameroon rainforest.
A team of scientists took a trek into Africa’s largest rainforest in Cameroon, the Dja Reserve. The Dja Reserve covers nearly 1.3 million acres in the Congo Basin. They were there to catalog and scout for the many endangered species that live there including chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas, and forest elephants.
They made the 60-mile hike last month where they were to spend at least a week within the World Heritage Site. They soon discovered more hunting camps and empty rifle cartridges than signs of animals.
Jef Dupain, the African Wildlife Foundation’s expedition leader said, “There were lots of hunting camps in the core of the reserve, 16 in total, and we saw cartridges all over the place. We found more cartridges than signs of animals- and this is in the middle of the World Heritage Site!”
This finding quickly made Cameroon government officials, NGOs, and other donor organizations call for a meeting at the Conference of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. They will discuss threats to wildlife from poachers, mining operations, and deforestation.
The trip wasn’t a total loss though as they did find traces of 36 animals including the specific endangered ones they were looking for.
“We found traces of animals, such as gorilla nests, chimpanzee knuckle marks, and elephant dung everyday. But we were disappointed with the number of traces we saw,” explained Dupain.
All hope is not lost, as scientists believe many of the animals may have fled to the safety of the lowlands swamps deeper inside the reserve.
Poaching has become the number one problem for the animals in the reserve. A growing demand of bush meat from villages around the area and the increasing prices of ivory are pushing poachers to hunt the reserves more.
Fiona Maisels, a conservation scientist in central Africa, says that bush meat costs more than domestically produced meat from chickens or goats but is considered tastier and is valued as a status symbol.
If Cameroon cannot get the poaching under control quickly they believe that the larger animals will not last more than a few more decades. This will also cause devastating effects to the forest as the these animals help spread the seeds from the surrounding trees they eat from.
Dupain is currently leading a new anti-poaching system in the Dja Reserve and other protected sites. They will use GPS transmitters to gather more information about when and how the poachers are conducting their illegal activities. They will then relay this information to anti-poaching teams that monitor the reserves to help quicker prosecution.