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Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project

11 June 2014

Illegal Exploiter of Endangered Microberlinia bisulcata (Zingana) Caught

Posted in Blog, Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 2376

Tons of Microbelinia seized from illegal logger

Authorities of the Southwest Regional Brigade of the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife have recently intercepted the transportation of over 1400 pieces of sawn Microbelinia bisulcata which were headed for Douala by an illegal exploiter, Tsafack who possessed neither authorization nor exploitation permit.

Chief Ngoh James of Dikome Balondo village said the Forestry chief of Post of the area had presented Tsafack to the community for exploitation. The villagers accepted without any reservation given that the exploiter was with the chief of post- a government official, and the species was considered a hindrance to the growth of their crops. To this regard, the chief of post reportedly advised the villagers not collect money in exchange of the trees but rather to ask the exploiter to reward them through a developmental project in the community. To this effect, the villagers went into verbal agreement with the exploiter in which he was to exploit and saw out 10.000 pieces of logs and in return construct a modern community hall of 15m X 8m consisting of two bedrooms, a conference hall and 2 modern toilets. Consequently, he exploited and transported 2 trucks of the species on two occasions. On the third occasion, the villagers held the truck filled with sawn pieces of Zingana hostage because he had not commenced his side of the bargain as promised. To this effect, the verbal agreement was transformed into a written agreement with the community. On a patrol to area by the South West regional MINFOF brigade team supported by ERuDeF, a pile of over 1400 sawn pieces of Zingana were found pending transportation to Douala by Mr.Tsafack in the village. The MINFOF team confiscated the sawn logs using the official forestry hammer and reported the matter to the Regional office and area gendarmes which prompted the detention of the illegal exploiter. He was charged 2 million FCFA as fine and damages caused which was to be paid into government treasury before his release.

Nonetheless the villagers still interrupted the confiscation and auction of the logs by MINFOF authorities. They argued that the logs could not be auctioned because the owner of the logs –Tsafack had gone into agreement with the community before exploiting the species and till then had not executed his terms of the agreement. The Regional Delegate of Forestry Mr Ebai Samuel together with his team summoned a conflict resolution meeting at the community. In the presence of the Divisional Officer of Bamusso Mr Ndille Joseph, community members and ERuDeF staff, the conflict was sought to be resolved.

Speaking at the meeting, the D.O blamed the community for accepting and going into agreement without his consent. He highlighted that the DO as the administrator of the area had been sidelined by the community and illegal exploiters hovered into the community. He explained that the DO was there for the community and urged the community members to always direct strangers who wanted to work in the community to him. He emphasized that villagers had privileges and not rights of allowing persons to exploit the forest without informing the necessary government authorities. He bemoaned the fact that the exploiter had duped the villagers to exploit the timber without authorization.

In response to this, the Regional Delegate said the wood had to be auctioned and the money paid into the government coffers. RDFOF however said that given the underlying circumstance, he would talk with his team and seek to consider that 50% of the logs are given to the community to sell and use the money to complete the hall while 50% is auctioned and money paid into the government coffers.

Reacting to the unfortunate circumstances, the project Coordinator of the Mt Cameroon threatened trees project at ERuDeF, emphasized the need for protecting these trees whose population has declined almost to extinction due such illegal exploitation.

Microberlinia bisulcata commonly called zebra wood or Zingana is found within the lowland forest of Mt Cameroon. Recently the specie has been undergoing serious threat of extinction as illegal exploiters haul logs out of the forest everyday . The species which is critically endangered and endemic to the area is highly sawn for its beautiful hard stripy timber for furniture. Given that the Cameroon government recently issued a ban on another threatened species Gebourtia mannii (Boubinga) which was highly exported, the recent upsurge has been on Zingana as a substitute in the black market of timber. Hence the illegal logging of the relics of the zebra wood or Zingana within the lowland forest of Mt Cameroon has been appalling. Nonetheless the services of South West Regional brigade of Forestry and Wildlife in collaboration with ERuDeF has been putting measures to stop the felling of these trees through the introduction of anti-logging patrols supported by the UK Charity Fauna and Flora's Global Tree Campaign project.

By Asa'a Lemawah

11 June 2014

ERuDeF Collects Over 250 Seeds Of Threatened Lophira Alata Plant

Posted in Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 1653

seeds of Lophira alata

A team of Foresters from the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) have collected over 240 seeds of the threatened Lophira alata tree from the Lilale and the Likoko forests in the Mt Cameroon area. The seeds collected in April 2014 have been nursed in ERuDeF's central nursery located in Buea. The collection of these seeds was very exciting to the team given that since the identification of this particular species in previous surveys, seeds were never found but during this latest survey in April, they were identified and collected. This period was therefore noted as the fruiting period of the species and henceforth, forests of these areas will be surveyed for the Lophira seeds collection. After propagation in the nursery the seedlings will eventually be distributed to communities to plant them in their respective forests as well as seedlings of other threatened trees.

While in the forest, the team found it a little tricky to distinguish the Lophira seeds given their brownish nature as leaves in the forest floor. They were also difficult to be distinguished from those of the threatened Entandrophragma angolenses due to the leaf-like structure on it. However, the round-seeded nut at the bottom clarified doubts and the seeds were distinguished and picked.

The Lophira alata species is a threatened species of plant of the Ochnaceae family. It is found in Cameroon, Congo, Gabon and Nigeria and has been widely exploited mostly for its wood, particularly in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon due to hardness of its wood and larger volume than other woods.

Also the wood is being used for construction work such as hydraulic works, marine construction, bridges and staircases owing to its resistant properties. From a traditional standpoint, experts say the bark extracts of this plant are used as a cure against menstrual/kidney problems, headache and stomach problems. However due to the very high level of exploitation in its areas of distribution, it has been classified as 'vulnerable' by the IUCN Red list.

In Cameroon, primary populations of Lophira alata have disappeared since the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the landscapes which harbored these plants are degraded or have almost disappeared completely as a result of human activities in the tropical forests.

In an effort to restore this species and other threatened tree species, ERuDeF in partnership with the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has been collecting the seeds of such plants in the Mount Cameroon area to propagate and later replant in the forest in order to replace these globally protected species.

By Adeline Woquan

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23 May 2014

The Southern Bakundu Forest Reserve: A Farm Estate or Protected Area?

Posted in Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 1927

Cross section of cocoa farm in the Southern Bakundu Forest reserve.

The creation of nature reserves in Cameroon dates back to the colonial era. The Southern Bakundu Forest Reserve was created in 1939 as a native administrative forest reserve and approved following decree No. 22 of 25 April 1940 by the British Colonial Government. The forest reserve was created as private state property and classified as a forest from which seedlings of rare and endangered plant species could be collected and planted elsewhere. The Southern Bakundu forest is located in the South West Region of Cameroon. It is located in the West of the road, about 75km from Limbe to Kumba the principal town of Meme Division and occupies a total area of 194.25km. This reserve like many other reserves and protected areas in the country was created mainly to protect certain floral and faunal species from extinction due to the high rates of deforestation and encroachment. The reserve consisted of distinctive flora and fauna with many endemic species such as the Microberlinia bisulcata (Tiger wood), Lophira alata (Iron wood), Nauclea diderichii (Opepe), Gebourtia mannii (Boubinga), Milicia excels (Iroko). A few years back during a field visit by ERuDeF's Mt Cameroon threatened trees project team, the reserve had some threatened trees within. It was pathetic to realize that going there again this March 2014, vast estates of cocoa and palm plantations now exist instead of forest within the supposed reserve. One could wonder if it were a cocoa reserve or a forest reserve. Nonetheless, one could assume that when these reserves were created, land tenure systems in and around the protected areas were not well articulated. Could it be said that little consideration was made to the communities around the reserves as at the time when allocating the area for a reserve? Or could it be that these communities around the reserve may not really know the exact boundaries of the reserve or buffer zone around the protected area? Whatever the case may be, the rate of encroachment into these protected areas could be attributed to insufficient land to sustain the livelihood needs of the growing population for cash and food cropland, timber and wood for sale, firewood for local use, wildlife, medicinal plants and other non-timber forest products. Our once rich and bountiful heritage of Southern Bakundu Forest reserve amongst many others are gradually becoming vast plantation estates.

By Asa'a Lemawah

23 May 2014

3 New Threatened Tree Species Identified Within the Mt Cameroon Tree Project

Posted in Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 1484

Three new threatened tree species have been identified in the Mount Cameroon area. The species Cola suboppositifolia, Oxanthus montanus and Draceana bueana all species classified threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature(IUCN) were found in the Buassa and Sanje forests in Mount Cameroon in March by a team of Foresters from the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF).

Cola suboppositifolia web

Cola suboppositifolia


Oxyanthus montanus web

Oxanthus montanus


Draceana bueana web

Draceana bueana

 

These 3 new species add to the 17 previously identified threatened tree species which ERuDeF has been propagating in order to replace the threatened species which have suffered massive exploitation by humans over the last decades causing their population to reduce drastically. With the identification of these threatened species within Mount Cameroon, ERuDeF in partnership with the Ministry of Forestry will put in place measures to propagate these species as well as ensure their conservation just like they did for the 17 previously identified threatened trees.

The survey on the identification of the threatened trees within the wild forest was strenuous given that these trees were once located and geo- referenced some years in the protected areas.. However given that most of the protected areas within the park such as the Bomboko Forest Reserve have been depleted spotting these trees has become very difficult.

ERuDeF started these tree surveys in 2011 where the forests of some 21 out of 41communities around the Mt Cameroon National Park were assessed and threatened trees identified. 8 forests of communities around the forest were augmented to be assessed to better explore and identify these threatened trees.

Within this context, teams have to trek for days in the forest to identify trees. Difficult terrains are trodden upon to arrive some of these areas where the endangered or threatened species are located. It is even more difficult during the rainy season especially as these areas are inaccessible by car or bikes. Canoes are used to get across to some villages especially when separated by a water body. From Sanje for instance, where one of the threatened trees was identified to Eyenge, access to the forest is by a locally made canoe

At night the team pitches tent and spend nights in the forest.

By Asa'a Lemawah

05 March 2014

Communities learn how to propagate threatened tree species

Posted in Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 1955

Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project

Community member learns how to propagate threatened tree

Some six communities around the Mt Cameroon area have been taught to nurse and plant fruiting threatened tree species by a team from the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) in February.

This approach has been a major preoccupation to the Mt Cameroon threatened trees team at ERuDeF within the last month given that the ERuDeF Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project envisages restoring at least 10,000 seedlings of threatened tree species within the Mt Cameroon area in the next 2 years and it is thus imperative for the team to put in place measures towards the availability of the planting stock (seedlings) needed. To this regard, seed collection of fruiting threatened species was carried out together with community members of Bova I, Bomana, Bakingili, Bokwaoango, Mapanja and Bafia. Together with the community nursery attendants of Bomana, Bova I, Bafia and Bakingili the collected seeds were nursed at the community nurseries. It was an opportunity to step up the capacity of the community nursery attendants and community members on the threatened tree species and the methods of propagating them. An inhabitant of the Bokwaongo village who accompanied the team to the forest was surprised when the giant African mahogany (Entandrophragma angolenses) commonly called Tiama was identified for seed collection. He confessed that he did not know that the feather-like seeds were of Mahogany. He recognized the tree, but had never taken note that the feather-like seeds were produced by the species. Njie Wilson who guided the team into the Bokwaoango forest for seed collection had used the species seeds as a toy when growing up given that its feather- like nature made it rotate upon dispersal from the mother tree as it flew down. He had never considered planting the seeds, but henceforth he would endeavour to plant at least 50 of the species in his farm for his offspring.

In Bova I a Community member had said vehemently that the seeds of the African mahogany could not be nursed but he watched and learnt with surprise the technical hints of seed collection, nursing, storage using local methods and planting. Depending on the species, the planting method differed. Isaac Eko the community nursery attendant at Bomana amazed at the propagation of the African mahogany from seeds said "I thought that timber species like this could only be propagated only from wildings"

Together with these communities, the ERuDeF-Global Trees Campaign sponsored Mt Cameroon Threatened Tree Project will ensure the propagation of a viable population of threatened species which will be used to restore the degraded landscape of Mt Cameroon forest area. To this, the project objective of restoring degraded areas of the Mt Cameroon forest would be attained to a measurable and appreciative level.

Asa'a Lemawah & Adeline Tegem

30 January 2014

Cameroon’s Ministry of Forestry Develops Anti-Logging Strategy for Threatened Trees

Posted in Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 1932

Anti logging committee meeting

The Ministry of Forestry of Wildlife through its SW Regional Delegation has drawn up an anti-logging strategy to curb the extinction of threatened trees species within the Mt. Cameroon forests.

The meeting which took place on Monday, December 16, 2013 at the ERuDeF Institute of Biodiversity and Non-profit Studies, IBiNS, campus, Mile 18, brought together stakeholders from the Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife, ERuDeF and members of the local communities including Bova, Bafia, Bakingili and Bomana.

The decision comes after a team of foresters from ERuDeF, during one of their patrols sometime in August 2013, watched with dismay as tons of the threatened species zebra wood (Microbelinia bisulcata) were sawn and transported out of the Mt. Cameroon forest area.

Demand for zebra wood soared in the Cameroon timber market following a ban by government on the highly sought Bubinga species (Guibourtia mannii).

Villagers in the Mt. Cameroon area told The Green Vision that illegal logging of timber species from the area has increased to frightening levels.

They said loggers invade the forest at midnight and haul tons of wood from the forest.

Sources reveal that in the last two to three years, a cubic metre of Bubinga sold at a whooping 1.5 million frs cfa in Douala.

This brisk business almost led to the extinction of the species in the Mt. Cameroon area, causing government to ban its exploitation.

Regional Controller, Biakiay Nobert, said carrying out patrols and anti-logging has been part of their duty at the Ministry of Forestry.

"We have the manpower and technical knowhow to carry out patrols and track down illegal logging. It is true there is a lot of deforestation going on in the Mt. Cameroon forest. At the level of the Ministry of Forestry, we have been doing patrols to curb the rate of deforestation. The coming in of ERuDeF will help beef up our capacity and help to make our patrols more regular." The Coordinator of ERuDeF's Mt Cameron Threatened Trees Project, Asa'a Lemawah, said it was imperative that ERuDeF in collaboration with the Ministry of Forestry act fast to curb the situation.

She explained that the rate of encroachment especially in forest reserves such as the Mokoko Forest Reserve is due to increase in population and the search for livelihoods.

Asa'a equally blamed the disappearance of these threatened trees on the vast expansion of the agro-industrial company, the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC).

The team, therefore, resolved to increase village to village sensitization in communities living within the Mt. Cameroon area and also in the media; work closely with the village management committee for them to mediate between their communities and ERuDeF/MINFOF and reduce illegal exploitation of the threatened species.

It was also resolved that there would be more regular patrols by the MINFOF team, which would also take GPS of where seizures are noted so that patrols could be intensified in such areas.

In addition, impromptu patrols will be conducted in forest reserves so as to take illegal loggers unawares.

A recent survey demonstrated that the trend in demand especially by the Chinese has moved away from Bubinga to Microbelinia bisulcata commonly known as Zingana.

Remnants of Zingana found in the Mokoko Forest Reserve and adjacent forests are being extracted wantonly to make up for this gap.

 

Regina Fonjia Leke

28 January 2014

15 More Communities Express Interest in ERuDeF’s Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project

Posted in Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 1809

Survey being conducted

Some 15 more villages around the Mount Cameroon area have expressed their desire to be part of the ERuDeF project for the conservation of threatened trees within the Mt Cameroon area.

They expressed their intention in November, 2013, during a two week survey on predominant tree species and their uses in some 15 villages around the Mt Cameroon area conducted by the Project Coordinator, Ms Asa'a Lemawah. The aim of the survey was to enhance the conservation status of these threatened trees within the area by establishing nurseries to propagate them.

These 15 villages include:Woteva,Bokwaongo,Etome,Bibunde,Sanje,Kotto1,Kuke Kumbu, Mundongo, Ewondo, Bakingili, Likombe, Mapanja,Bomana,Bova 1 and Bova Bomboko

All 15 communities pledged to collaborate with ERuDeF for the establishment of tree nurseries and the subsequent transplanting of the trees in the buffer zones of the National Park and their farm lands for a better tomorrow.

"It is a privilege to have trees restored into our communities and the buffer zones of the National Park...they were dominant/very useful trees within my village-Mundongo, but due to indiscriminate felling, it is very difficult to find them again in this village except further away from the village (in the forest). We have trees like what we call Masonia, Iroko ,Zingana Mahogany,opepe,Cam wood, prunus, Akom, bush mango and azobe" Chief Menge Samuel of Mundongo village said. The people of these15 communities also identified some trees in their respective areas and some of their local uses.

The Conservation of threatened Trees in the Mt Cameroon area is a project of the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) funded by the UK Charity Fauna & Flora International. The five-year project, which started in August 2011 and is being carried out by ERuDeF in collaboration with the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife entered phase two on September, 2013 with over 10,000 new seedlings envisaged in secured areas in the Mt. Cameroon area. This second phase will run from September 2013 to August 2016.

 

By Asa'a Lemawah & Adeline Tegem

28 January 2014

ERuDeF Launches Phase II of the Project: Conservation of threatened treesat Mt Cameroon

Posted in Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 1781

Stakeholders pose after launching

Supported by UK Charity Fauna & Flora International/Global Tree Campaign Program, the Environment & Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) has officially launched the second phase of the project to conserve and restore threatened trees in the Mt. Cameroon area.The launching took place on October 28, at the Southwest Regional Delegation of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, Buea.

This second phase will run from October 2013 to August 2016.

The five-year project, which started in August 2011 and is being carried out by ERuDeF in collaboration with MINFOF South West, entered phase two with over 10,000 new seedlings envisaged in secured areas in the Mt. Cameroon area.

The project covers the Mt. Cameroon area including the adjacent lowland forest of Mokoko Forest Reserve, proposed forest reserves of Onge and Mabeta Moliwe, where most of these threatened trees are found.

Project Coordinator, Asa'a Lemawah, said they aim at inducing a 50% reduction in illegal logging and building the capacity of at least four collaborative communities within the Mt. Cameroon area on sylvi-cultural techniques by 2016.

Asa'a enumerated successes of the first phase including the raising of awareness on project activities and its relevance to members of over 21 communities and other stakeholders, the identification of 17 threatened tree species out of 26 of the IUCN list and establishment of community nurseries at Bomana, Bakingili, Bafia, Bova I and Bonjare with each nursery having a total of about 1.200 seedlings of the threatened trees.

The Coordinator said the project has facilitated the understanding of threatened trees within the Mt. Cameroon National Park.

"Equally, communities which were hitherto ignorant have been sensitized and they now understand that some trees are threatened and need to be conserved. These people have gotten involved in the process and now take care of their community nurseries," Asa'a said.

She said after raising trees and planting them in the wild, the forest adjacent community becomes the owner of the trees.

"The trees will be planted in the farms along the buffer zones of the park and some at the borders of the park to support the need of fuel wood for local people. Farmers will exploit wood from their farms and will not have to invade the national park for wood," said Asa'a. She said the project will equally help farmers increase their income through sustainable exploitation of non-forest timber products (NTFPs), adding that seeds of trees like the afrostyrax commonly referred to as "country onions", a valued condiment in the Cameroon cuisine, would be harvested and sold, thus boosting income of local people.

According to Asa'a, they also raised a 20,000 capacity central tree nursery and community nurseries where a total of over 25.000 of seven threatened tree species have been nursed and will be planted out in natural habitats within buffer zones of the Mt. Cameroon National Park and its borders.

The South West Regional Delegate of Forestry and Wildlife, Eben Samuel Ebai, commended these achievements and suggested that many more communities be included in the second phase of the project.

Speaking to The Green Vision, ERuDeF CEO, Louis Nkembi, said the project: "Conservation of Threatened Trees at Mt. Cameroon" was developed with the support of major partners like Fauna & Flora International and Global Trees Campaign with a vision to increase the capacity of local stakeholders in the Mt. Cameroon forest area to conserve and restore threatened trees.

Nkembi said the project target was to raise 30.000 seedlings resulting from the fact that Mt. Cameroon was recently identified as a priority for threatened trees with 15 of the country's critically endangered trees like Microberlinia bisulcata (zebrawood), Entandrophragma (mahogany), Prunus Africana (Pygeum) found in the mountain area, which are highly threatened by farmland acquisition, logging and hunting.

"It is in this light that ERuDeF is working with MINFOF regional collaborators to promote the conservation of threatened trees within the Mt. Cameroon area," the ERuDeF boss said.

Meanwhile, the MINFOF Regional Delegate noted that the depletion of biodiversity in the country via indiscriminate harvesting started in 1972 with focus on Prunus Africana. Then just two years ago, the Chinese developed interest in Bobinga.

"1.5 cubic metres of Bobinga was selling at a whooping 1.5 million FCFA cash in Douala. The trend is now moving to the critically endangered zebrawood and there has been massive exploitation in the Mt. Cameroon area," Eben Ebai said.

The Delegate, therefore, called on all stakeholders to intensify efforts and save this wood.

He equally advised that illegal loggers be brought on board so that they can seek ways to reforest Mt. Cameroon's deforested areas.

By Bertrand N. Shancho

28 January 2014

Ban on Exploitation of Bubinga Wood Makes Zigana(Microbelinia bisulcata) Next Target

Posted in Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 2442

Need for more concerted effort

Recently there has been a sharp rise in the demand for the threatened tree species Microberlinia bisulcata in the Cameroon timber market following a recent ban by the Cameroon government on the highly sought timber species Guibourtia mannii commonly known as Bubinga. Bubinga, is used in high-end furniture, drum shells and in both acoustic and electric guitars for its figure and hardness. The local and international demand for Zingana has thus, become alarming. Sources reveal that in the last two to three years, a cubic metre of Bubinga sold at a whooping 1.5million FCFA in Douala. This brisk business almost led to the extinction of the species in the Mt Cameroon area. Recent survey has now demonstrated that the trend in demand especially by the Chinese has moved away from Bubinga now to Microbelinia bisulcata commonly known as Zigana. Remnants of Zingana found in the Mokoko Forest Reserve and adjacent forests are being extracted wantonly to make up for this gap. These are sold to international markets which are in dire need of the timber sawn from this species. ERuDeF, together with her foreign partners Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Global Trees Campaign (GTC) and the South West Regional services of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) have been working together within the Mt Cameroon area where this species is found since 2011 to ensure that the status of the species is restored through propagation and restocking of the species in the wild. With over 17,000 threatened trees seedlings being propagated in nurseries within the area by ERuDeF, these species will be planted out in the buffer zones around the Mt Cameroon National Park. The call for concern however remains on the sustainability of these trees when eventually planted out in the wild. It becomes very imperative for the government to consider measures of reducing or putting an end to the extinction of threatened species.

Recently, in most countries, timber obtaining policies have been considered and implemented by public agencies, trade associations, and private companies in many traditional tropical timber markets. In order to address public concerns about the environmental credentials of products made from timber, criteria is added into the decision making process. Many purchasers are demanding that timber products come from sustainable, or legal sources that can be traced, in order to maintain credibility with public opinion. These types of policies have significant implications for tropical timber suppliers if fully implemented and need to be considered as well.

There is a therefore a dire need for tropical timber producing countries such as Cameroon, to understand the human resources, cost implications and possible benefits that could be derived from the implementation of adequate measures. These should meet the criteria set in procurement policies in tropical timber importing countries.

More than 60 percent of Cameroon's rainforests are under management systems that emphasize sustainability, yet further reform is needed. Deeper recognition of the customary rights of all people who depend on Cameroon's forests, regardless of ethnicity, is vital. Cameroon needs qualified eco-investors to sustain conservation and diminish reliance on timber production.

By Asa'a Lemawah

28 January 2014

Indiscriminate logging threatens extinction of Microberlinia bisulcata at Mt Cameroon forest

Posted in Mt Cameroon Threatened Trees Project, Views 1902

Illegal logging surges in the Mt Cameroon Forest

There is a risk of the globally threatened tree species Microberlinia bisulcata commonly referred to as Zebra wood or Tiger wood getting extinct in the Mokoko Forest Reserve of the Mt Cameroon area. A recent field visit carried out by a team from the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) reveals that the rate at which this tree is being exploited has skyrocketed. The team working for the project Conservation of threatened trees at Mt Cameroon watched with dismay tons of zebrawood sawn and extracted from this reserve which harbors the relics of this critically endangered species. The species is highly hunted and sawn by exploiters for commercial purpose. Zebra wood has beautiful stripes which give furniture made from the species attractive.

The illegal exploitation of this wood in the Mt Cameroon forest is a whole organized trade. Illegal exploiters set up camps within the reserve borders and spend weeks and months within the reserve cutting the trees. They cut down the zebra wood from the Mokoko Forest area of Ekumbe Mefako with little or no knowledge on the national and international laws governing the management of the species. Harvesting is carried out indiscrimately and this could be hazardous if measures are not put in place to curb the situation. The exploitation team usually consists of sawyers, transporters locally referred to "Bambes" who carry the sawn wood from the forest to the road side for transportation by trucks to the big markets. There is equally the main exploiter -who presumably owns the chain saws. More often than not, the head of the team already has a market for their produce; this could be local or international.

One of the Labourers who spoke to the ERuDeF team on condition of anonymity said "although the wood is reducing, it has a high demand in the local markets for furniture" According to this Labourer zebra wood will never get finish, hear him "the forest is our natural endowment from God, and would regenerate naturally when we let it fallow..."

The species is not only cut down for timber for furniture but also by farmers due to ignorance to the relevance of its high nitrogenous contents which enrich soils and render them fertile. They cut down the species in their farmlands for sunlight and to increase their farmland

This species endemic to the Mt Cameroon area was previously found in abundance within the lowland tropical forests of Mt Cameroon at Southern Bakundu, Mokoko Forest reserves but statistics have revealed it has reduced by more than half in the last five years due to the wanton exploitation of the species.

Even though ERuDeF has been working very closely with communities to raise nurseries for these critically endangered species at the community nurseries of Bova I, Bakingili, Bomana and Bafia, the bone of contention is what becomes the fate of the relics of these threatened species if propagated? If they would be cut down randomly again given that even the trees which are supposedly within protected areas are cut down with no fear. Many are those who think more education needs to be done and the Cameroon government needs to punish those involved in the illegal trade.

By Asa'a Lemawah

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