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Cameroon takes a giant step towards becoming natural reserve heaven in Africa

The government of Cameroon announced last Friday the creation of its first marine and terrestrial national park, an effort that was made possible by Rainforest Trust and local partner Cameroon Wildlife Conservation Society (CWCS).

Terrestrial and aquatic habitats of Douala-Edea. Photo courtesy of CWCS.

The declaration upgraded the Douala-Edea Wildlife Reserve, first created in 1932, to national park status, and it approved a nearly 350,000-acre expansion that includes mangrove forests, rivers, wetlands and marine habitats. Collectively, this expansion and conversion actively safeguard a total of 741,000 acres, almost the size of Yosemite National Park.

“This critical Key Biodiversity Area was at grave risk from growing pressure to deforest and destroy its megadiverse rainforests,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman. “The designation of this huge National Park is a vital step towards permanently protecting the precious natural resources of Cameroon hand-in-hand with local communities and the government.”

The Douala-Edea Wildlife Reserve, recently identified as one of the most important conservation landscapes in Central Africa, had unprotected land parcels, mangrove forests and freshwater and marine habitats that are integral to the overall health and sustainability of this coastal land and seascape. With this new designation level and expanded area, the Douala-Edea National Park will protect both the integrity and connectivity of this amazing ecosystem, which includes habitats as diverse as the species that live within them.

Flamingos line the beaches of Douala-Edea. Photo courtesy of CWCS.

“There is no doubt this major conservation breakthrough could not have been achieved without resolute engagement and financial support from Rainforest Trust,” National Coordinator of CWCS Dr. Gordon Ajonina said. “We are proud to say Rainforest Trust funding helped speedily move the gazettement process forward, including improvements in infrastructure, purchasing equipment for game rangers and motorcycles and engine boats for marine patrols.”

There are the Endangered Green Turtle and the Central African Chimpanzee, one of West Africa’s most imperiled primates, as well as other increasingly rare primate species such as the Vulnerable Gabon Black Colobus Monkey. Numerous species of forest antelope and small populations of Vulnerable West African Manatees, Leatherback Turtles, Olive Ridley turtles and African Forest Elephants also live in the area. There are more than 70 waterbird species documented, in addition to many migrant species that use the rivers and rich wetlands as important stops on annual migrations.

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