The great day arrived on May 8, 2015. My trip to Cameroon had begun early in the morning at the airport of Stuttgart in Germany. My mission: to join the ERuDeF Institute of Biodiversity and Non-profit Studies (ERuDeF Institute) International Volunteering Programme for wildlife conservation. A wildlife project about the protection and safety of endangered species like the Cross River Gorilla and Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee as well as several bird and butterfly species. Strapped in my aeroplane seat high up in the sky, I felt really excited as I contemplated having a great time in Cameroon and to be able to have a real experience of Africa!
The first touch with Cameroonian lifestyle was more than different to my life at home. I took the first days in Buea to adapt myself to Cameroon but I was still proud to be able to have this experience. After a few meetings in Buea, a group of ERuDeF Institute staff and I travelled to Besali in Lebailem Division in the Southwest Region with a short rest in Menji. Step to step, the streets became more rural and the luxury, I knew from my home, gradually disappeared. Then we arrived in Besali, a village in the newly-created Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary with no electricity and little or no water supply. It is at this level that I started feeling the great spirit of natural community; personally, I enjoyed the lovely relation between the people here.
The next stop was the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected rainforest area in the Southwest of Cameroon not far away from the borders of Nigeria. It was induced by ERuDeF several years ago. It is the habitat for endangered species like the Cross River Gorilla, Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee, several bird species and more than 5,000 butterfly species. These make the area one of Africa’s biodiversity hotspots needing the engagement and encouragement of conservationists to ensure the protection of endangered species. We spent eleven days in the forest; hiking and collecting data of signs of primates and bush animals. During this time, I proudly was able to find out that luxury became from time to time nonsense! The mobile phone, the camera or the lights, after days, are not important anymore. You go to bed when it is dark and you get up when the sun is rising, you save the pictures you see in your mind and not in your camera. You are able to enjoy the purity of life more and more. You eat what the forest gives you (bush onions, chillies (pepper), bush fruits) and you drink water the river sends to you. On the other hand, the nature takes what you give her back. The ants eat your cooking waste, the butterflies drink from your wet clothes, and the bees collect stuff from your meal.
The underlying lesson I got from this rainforest experience is that there is a balance between nature and human beings. The relationship between nature and humans is giving and taking. I was allowed to feel the experience that I am, as a human being, a part of our nature. Every human being on earth is a production of natural processes and will go back to nature when he or she dies. Hence, we have a big responsibility to ensure the protection of our nature and to keep the relationship between nature and humans in a fair balance. Not only since we are a production of nature, but more so because if we focus ourselves, we can feel the spirit of nature in ourselves. This spirit is our oldest part and connects us with every other animal on earth. We have to scrutinize ourselves on what we can do to secure nature and all the beings living within. We have to teach our children to be fair to nature. We have to engage ourselves and we have to mobilize ourselves to stand up for nature and struggle for its safety.
By Nico Fischer