IUCN and BIOPAMA will participate in the 5th edition of the Central African Protected Areas Open Days 2015, which will take place between 15 and 16 June 2015 in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Visitors of the stand will have the opportunity to learn more about BIOPAMA and what opportunities for engagement exist. The event is organized by RAPAC (Central African Protected Areas Network) and COMIFAC (Central African Forest Commission), in collaboration with the Congo Basin Forest Partnership.
The Coach Observatory Mission Information Toolkit (COMIT) has been developed by BIOPAMA West and Central Africa and concerns the methodology for data collection, management, and analysis, designed to support protected area decision making. COMIT includes tools to understand and use the protected area data collection form, as well as to train and build the capacity of protected area practitioners and national agencies to make decisions that will improve their management efficiency. The Observatory coaches being trained are representatives of national agencies responsible for protected area management. One of the first missions of the coaches will be to use the form in a large number of conservation areas across the region between August 2015 and March 2016.
The region hosts many highly endangered mammals, including Forest Elephants and Mountain Gorillas. Habitat types range from lush rain forest in the Congo Basin, the world’s second largest tropical forest, to the vast desert landscapes of the Southern Sahara.
Despite huge cultural and environmental diversity in West and Central African countries, there are many shared similarities throughout the region, dating back long in history.
Main threats and challenges
Poaching, as in many parts of Africa, is increasingly affecting large mammal species, reaching a sad peak with the slaughter of over 300 elephants in one area of Cameroon in early 2012. However, due to lack of proper monitoring, data availability for many species is poor.
The integrity of some of the region’s most precious habitats is threatened by the incursion of extractive industries, including oil and gas, as well as mining, which is becoming a major threat even in World Heritage sites such as Virunga National Park (Democratic Republic of Congo) and Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve (Côte d’Ivoire/Guinea).
Other sources of habitat destruction, such as large-scale industrial logging in Central Africa’s rainforests, drives many wildlife species to the brink of extinction. Some tropical forest regions, for example in Guinea, Nigeria and Niger, are considered critically threatened.
Protected areas in the West and Central Africa region
Sustainable financing, capacity building for managers, and solid strategies for involving local communities in natural resource management are challenges that concern many West and Central African protected areas. Reserves in many West African countries tend to be small due to high population densities, with human-wildlife conflict a common problem around reserve borders.
There are also major gaps in protected area systems. Most of the heavily deforested parts of West Africa are under very little protection, as are other areas of high biodiversity value, for example Mount Cameroon and the Western Guinean lowland forests.
Nevertheless, there has also been good news for protected areas in recent years, such as the declaration of thirteen new national parks in Gabon in 2002 to improve protection of the Congo Basin.