Edited by Dr. Pamela Stedman-Edwards

This study was prepared by Dr. Fondo Sikod, Ms. Estherine Lisinge, Dr. John Mope-Simo, and Dr. Steve Gartlan. Dr. Sikod, who teaches at the University of Yaoundé II and has a PhD in agricultural and resource economics, was the team leader Dr. Mope-Simo has a PhD in development studies. Dr. Gartlan (Director), and Ms. Lisinge (Policy Officer) are with the WWF-Cameroon Programme Office.

The bushmeat and wildlife trade in Cameroon is a growing threat to biodiversity. The development of a network of commercial hunters and markets is closely linked with Cameroon’s dependence on primary product exports, including agricultural products and timber, which has led to land clearing and road construction without relieving local poverty.

The forests of Cameroon are extremely rich in flora and fauna. However, as in other tropical countries, Cameroon´s biodiversity is under siege. This study addresses in a direct way one of the significant features of the modern world: the precipitous decline in ecological diversity and the extinction of species. The causes and the patterns that we describe are very typical not only of Cameroon, but also of the whole African continent and even further afield.

Two principal causes of biodiversity loss are examined in this study: the wildlife and bushmeat trades. The terms “wildlife” and “wildlife product” are used in this study to refer to any wild animal or bird that is caught and sold, live or dead, and the skin, teeth, skull, horn, tusk, or any part of the body sold. The term “bushmeat” or wild game meat refers to any species of animal or bird that is shot, speared, or trapped and sold for public consumption either fresh or preserved. In Yaoundé, Cameroon´s capital city, an inventory of the four main bushmeat markets (Baillon, 1995) revealed a monthly arrival of 70 to 90 tons of bushmeat, with an average of 2.3 tons per day. The meat arrives in Yaoundé either by road (20%) or by train (80%).

Multiple root causes drive the wildlife and bushmeat trades. The principal driver is a complex of consequences of what might be loosely termed “development” and the need to meet “modern” consumption demands from a natural-resource based economy (logging, mining) or from primary agricultural production (coffee, cocoa, oil palm, bananas). This takes place against a background of subsistence needs, high human population growth, and significant economic decline.

The bushmeat and wildlife trades are examined at two different sites, Mount Cameroon and the South-East forests. Mount Cameroon’s exploitation and development has been particularly intense over the last century. Mount Cameroon is close to the coast, easily accessible, located in an area of fertile volcanic soil, and adjacent to large population centers, notably Limbe and Douala, with good communications. In contrast, the South-East forests have been exploited only for the last two or three decades. They are remote from major population centers, have poor communications and, until very recently, have been inaccessible. Soils are infertile and human population densities have remained low. However, a course of development similar to that followed in Mount Cameroon is underway in the South-East forests. Mount Cameroon may well present a picture of the forests of the South-East two or three decades from now.

Site Description

Mount Cameroon

Mount Cameroon is a biodiversity hotspot located on Cameroon’s western coast. The antiquity and isolation of the forests and an unbroken range of ecological formations from 200 m to 2,500 m above sea-level are highly significant features. Mount Cameroon is thought to be the only place in West and Central Africa where the natural vegetation is effectively unbroken from near sea-level to the sub-alpine level (Environmental Resources Management, 1998). The area forms part of a Pleistocene refuge of the Lower Guinea Forest. The mountain shelters over 210 species of birds, eight of which are threatened or near threatened. However, populations of large mammals have largely disappeared. The mean annual rainfall at Debundsha, on the West Coast, is about 10 m to 12 m, making it the second wettest place on earth. The monthly temperature at sea-level varies from 24°C to 35°C, with the highest temperatures occurring in March-April.

The West Coast region is a cosmopolitan area inhabited by both Cameroonians and foreigners. The foreign community is significant, with Ghanaians, Beninois and Nigerians constituting the most important groups. The Cameroonian community includes the indigenous Bakweri, who have been settled there for generations. Though their main activity is fishing, many are involved in subsistence farming, the main crops being cocoyam, cassava, and plantain.

A highly significant feature of the West Coast in the context of this study is a para-statal institution, the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC). CDC is an agro-industrial enterprise covering some 60,000 ha in the area, producing rubber, palm oil, and bananas in the lowlands and low slopes between the Atlantic Ocean and the mountain. Significant external labor, including Nigerians, was brought in from the North-West Province to work in these plantations. This immigrant labor is involved in forest resource exploitation, including logging and hunting.

South-East Forests

The South-East study area lies in the Boumba and Ngoko Division of the Eastern Province. The vegetation is lowland forest of the Congo Basin with a high proportion of endemic flora and fauna. However, unlike Mount Cameroon, the South-East forests still contain significant populations of large mammals, including forest elephant, lowland gorilla, forest buffalo, and bongo.

The region has an equatorial climate with about 1.6m of rain per year. There are two wet and two dry seasons. The mean monthly temperature, about 25°C or 26°C, fluctuates little. The vegetation of the region is a mosaic of semi-deciduous, evergreen, and swamp forest types. The topography is gently undulating, with valleys and ridges among flat basins, ranging in elevation

from 300 m to 700 m. Soils are red and red-brown clays with

little organic material and are relatively infertile.

Figure 7.1 Cameroon: Showing Location in Central Africa


The local peoples of the South-East are the Bangando and Bakwele ethnic groups of Bantu origin and the semi-sedentary forager-farmer Baka pygmies, a small number of Muslim traders, and other non-indigenous peoples who mainly work for the logging companies. Tribal groups and sometimes even families have members in more than one country. This facilitates movement and exchange between peoples of adjacent countries. Hunters pass from one country to the next without leaving what they consider as tribal land. Bushmeat has always played an important role in human life in the Central African forest. Pygmy tribes such as the Baka still maintain elements of the hunter-gatherer way of life, which are increasingly being put to commercial use.

Figure 7.2 The Mount Cameroon Study Area


Figure 7.3 South-East Forest Study Area


There is heavy logging in the region, which started intensively in the early 1970s. Because of the poor road network at the time, the logging companies constructed their bases along rivers for easy removal of timber. Over time and with the construction of roads, logs are now removed principally by road to the distant port of Douala. Five logging companies operate concessions and sawmills in the region and export unprocessed logs. The timber industry provides jobs for some 2,000 people. These workers have become major actors in bushmeat hunting, and the timber trucks provide transport of bushmeat to distant urban centers.

Research Methodology

The major pressures on biodiversity of importance in this study are the stuff of common observation: high human population growth, economic decline and increasing levels of poverty, and rapid escalation in exploitation of the country’s natural resources. It is assumed that these factors are influencing the environment and promoting the loss of biodiversity; the problem is to determine the exact linkages and determine the relative importance of the various factors and of interactions among them. Because any individual behavior can be the result of multiple causes, and because not all causes may be in the conscious mind of an individual, the process of working out these linkages is extremely complex. The methodology followed has been that of successive approximation: refining and sharpening concepts, moving down from the coarse and general to the fine-grained and specific.

Initial hypotheses included the following:

·  Development is the main root cause of biodiversity loss.

·  The institutional setting of Cameroon facilitates wildlife harvesting, which leads to biodiversity loss.

·  The economic environment of Cameroon has led to increased wildlife harvesting.

·  Poverty is a root cause of the over-harvesting of wildlife.

·  International demand for wildlife and wildlife products is a root cause of biodiversity loss.

Many different types of primary data were collected, using line-transect data on the distribution and intensity of hunting, participatory evaluations, questionnaires, interviews, checklists, and discussions. Very little official data is available in these matters and official data that do exist, for example on the export of wildlife through the principal ports, are highly unreliable.

The principal secondary data source for the South-East was a two-year study on the spatial distribution and intensity of hunting in the western Dja Reserve (Muuchal and Ngandjui, 1997) and, for the Mount Cameroon region, a socioeconomic survey. (Ambrose, et al, 1988) Data on the dynamics of the bushmeat trade and in particular the markets and trading links are unpublished WWF material (Baillon, 1995), supplemented by another unpublished report on the commercialization of hunting in the South-East. (Zouya-Mimbang 1998)

Analysis of information collected was carried out through a flow discussion and analysis of the linkages, both lateral and sequential, to bring out the causal relations that lead to biodiversity loss. At the local level, supply analysis and traditional linkages to nature were important. The introduction of markets brings in regional, national, and international scales of analysis. The traditional situation breaks down and the driving forces change. Market and demand analysis, looking at such forces as income, poverty, tastes and preferences, and substitution, become important at this level of analysis. The importance and influence of socio-cultural variables diminish as the analysis moves from the proximate or local scale to the regional, national, and global scales.

Almost all elements of this study would benefit from further research in order to better document the phenomena and to establish the causal linkages with more precision. The fact that both principal activities are essentially informal and illegal make accurate data collection particularly difficult and time-consuming.

Local Context

Mount Cameroon

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. Population density is now about 48 people per km2. Nearly 75 percent of the Mount Cameroon study site is deforested.

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. 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 hunter as well as wildlife collectors operate:

Indigenous subsistence hunters: This type of hunter lives in the area and hunts on his subsistence farm and in the local bush surrounding the farm for animals 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; there is little conservation significance.

Local hunters: This type of hunter is 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 of fiery hot broth 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, in principle, to community pressures.

Commercial hunters: The commercial hunter 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 east 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 wildlife abundance was higher in Mount Cameroon–the opposite was the case–but because the recently constructed West Coast road provided 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 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: Because 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. Teams of collectors may be led by either expatriates or Cameroonians. 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.