CAUSES OF DECLINE

Loss of habitat, the illegal wildlife trade and disease are detrimental to wildlife

THREATS TO WILDLIFE IN CAMEROON

The principle threats to wildlife in Cameroon are deforestation, the illegal animal trade and disease. The reality today is that 60% of primate species are being threatened with extinction.  And 75% of primate populations are declining [1]. In short, unsustainable human activities are causing many primate species to head towards extinction.

Primates and wildlife are living in closer and closer proximity to human settlements as a result of population growth. With this in mind, the pressure on wildlife will only continue to increase unless a concerted international effort is made. Ultimately, global action is required if we are to prevent and reduce the rate of extinction, and find sustainable ways for humans and wildlife to live and thrive together.

Primates contribute to the biological and cultural richness of a country’s natural heritage. Furthermore, they play a critical role in maintaining the health of the forests and ecosystems. Time is almost up for wildlife. And so the time to act is now!

[1] Impending extinction crisis of the world’s primates: Why primates matter 2017 Science Advances  

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Deforestation and Habitat Fragmentation

In Cameroon, many forest areas have been lost to commercial logging. In 2000, 76% of the country’s forests had already been logged or were allocated for logging concessions. And sadly, this number continues to rise [2]. Crucially, logging directly causes the fragmentation of forest habitats. And this in turn blocks access for wildlife to food sources and also prevents individuals from transferring between groups. Fundamentally, clearing of land has a catastrophic impact on reproduction and species survival.

Furthermore, the creation of roads for logging opens up access for hunters into previously inaccessible areas. In fact, these roads not only offer a local market among logging company workers, but also lower the cost of transporting bushmeat to cities for commercial sale. Additionally, once commercial logging occurs, humans, plantation developers, and farmers are likely to enter into the area and cause even further disruption to wildlife.

Finally, if any populations do survive such disruption of their habitats, they are at increased risk of being hunted and being exposed to human diseases. This is because will come into more frequent contact with humans.

[2] Global Forest Watch 2000, An overview of logging in Cameroon

Illegal Wildlife Trade

In Cameroon, the illegal animal trade is widespread. This includes the bushmeat trade, the sale of animal parts for black magic, and the pet trade. Historically, wild animals were an important resource, particularly in small communities that depended on forest animals for protein. However, commercialisation in addition to population growth has created an unsustainable increase in demand.

Unfortunately the level of hunting for bushmeat is difficult to track. However, it was reported that some 150,000 primate carcasses from 16 species were traded annually as bushmeat in urban and rural markets at 89 sites in Nigeria and Cameroon [3].

Additionally, primate body parts can have value for a variety of traditional uses. This includes for medicines and black magic.

Although wildlife laws are present in Cameroon, they are often difficult to implement. When family groups of primates are hunted, the infants, who are too small to have value as a meat source, are often present. Sadly, these individuals are worth more in the live pet trade. So after witnessing the deaths of their entire families, they are normally sold in illegal markets.

Unfortunately, only a small number of these orphans are saved and make it to an appropriate sanctuary such as the LWC. These orphans need proper care after experiencing severe physical and psychological trauma. Sadly, those who do not make it to a sanctuary, if they survive, are typically kept in deplorable conditions. For example, they end up in small cages, or chained up in villages or restaurants. Ultimately, they have little hope of freedom or ever seeing another member of their own species again.

[3] Correlates of bushmeat in markets and depletion of wildlife 2015. Conserv. Biol.29805815

Disease

Primates, particularly great apes, are highly susceptible to many human diseases. And this is due to their close genetic similarity to humans. Ultimately, when primates and humans are in close contact, disease transmission can easily occur.  

Additionally, when a forest is degraded due to human encroachment, primates may not be able to find all the foods and nutrients they need. Consequently, they can become more susceptible to diseases, both zoonotic (transmitted between humans and animals) and otherwise. These diseases can either kill the animals directly, or can significantly reduce their level of health. Furthermore, this can also reduce their energy levels available for reproduction. Ultimately, these different factors can lead to a population dying out over time.

Similarly, primates in sanctuaries are often survivors of the pet trade, where they lived in close contact with humans. Therefore, they are likely to have picked up zoonotic pathogens. Unfortunately, this makes it even harder to return rehabilitated wildlife back to the forests. This is because they could transmit those pathogens to wild populations. And this would put otherwise healthy wild animals at risk of decline.

How You Can Help

Time is running out. We must work together to protect wildlife. Join us!