Tofala Expedition: ‘We Had Close Encounters With Chimpanzees’

Mike record (left) and ERuDeF Biologist record wildlife data in Tofala

Mike record (left) and ERuDeF Biologist(right) record wildlife data in Tofala

My name is Mike Gray and I come from the UK. It is my first time in Africa. I love to see and know new things. One of my friends who volunteered in another organization in Africa told me about ERuDeF Institute and this volunteering programme, which I saw as an opportunity to learn some new things about wildlife and environmental protection.

My coming to Cameroon was also motivated by the desire to know the Cameroonian people, their culture, religion, way of life and the urge to support ERuDeF Institute in her efforts in protecting the environment.

While in Cameroon, I visited the Tofala Hills Wild Life Sanctuary, a site host to the critically endangered cross river gorilla and the endangered Nigerian Cameroon chimpanzees. It was such an interesting and exciting one! We had close encounters with chimpanzees; I could see them howl and beat their chests about ten meters away from us. This was a rare life time experience to me.

I felt so happy that even the climbing made deck right to the top of the hill and everything I saw in the field was a bonus. I am so glad my expectations were met. I was indeed very pleased.

I how ever discovered during the trip that the Cross River Gorillas, Nigeria Cameroon Chimpanzees and other wildlife species are still under threat from encroachment and hunting. There was also evidence of new vegetation clearance for farming and a large number of small traps were found.

These traps, I was told, are set for small animals but capable of catching gorillas and chimpanzees. Formal protection needs to be put in place as soon as possible for the sake of the wild life and the local communities.

I was impressed by the services ERuDeF rendered and must congratulate the organization for the wonderful work it is doing for the world at large.

Contrary to my fears, I realized that Cameroon Is a very safe place to travel and work in; everyone is very welcoming and the ERuDeF staff very professional and also ready to provide volunteers with very safe environment to work ,travel and socialize. My whole experience with ERuDeF has indeed been  pleasure.

Being my first time in Africa, I had a few difficulties. Due to the very hot climate, I underwent  constant dehydration but I am glad I had enough water to replenish. Transportation from Dschang to Menji on a bike with the bad roads, steep tracks and difficult terrain was another challenging but exciting experience.

With my few weeks in Cameroon and in Tofala in particular, I think there is need to raise funds to solve the problem of illegal logging poaching and farmland encroachment. The government also need to acknowledge and support local organizations engaged in wildlife conservation and environmental protection.

 

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‘IVP Programme Gave me Opportunity To Express Love To Nature’

Tony plant trees to protect degraded Lebialem Highlands

Tony (middle) plant trees to protect degraded Lebialem Highlands

My name is Tony Malone and I come from Durblin, Ireland. I have been in Cameroon for the past two weeks and my experience has been a great and enjoyable one

All my life I have always had the desire for such an adventure but could only have the opportunity after my retirement as a banker. I had always wanted to do something like this. I searched on Google, had several countries to choose from but I chose Cameroon and ERuDeF in particular because I felt the place will be interesting and some friends, who have also been to Cameroon as volunteers and others who are Cameroonians confirmed  that I had made the right choice.

My coming to Cameroon is therefore my own small way of doing something that will have a lasting effect on the environment; something with a meaningful difference.

Being a banker for many years, I never had the opportunity to express my love for nature and to do something that will impact lives so I felt I will leave a better legacy by helping people to preserve an environment which is under attack from pollution, global warming, poaching, logging and many others. I believe ERuDeF is the right channel through which I can achieve this dream.

My first impression of Cameroon was of a lively exciting country with great activity at the roadside with people enjoying the nightlife and music in the numerous open air restaurants and bars. However, what I will always remember and treasure is the genuine welcome I received from everyone I met.

The most consoling part of the trip was when I met the ERuDeF team. This is because I met a group of people who are lovers of the environment with passion for what they do like myself.

After the meeting and orientation, my work plan was discussed.  We met the local farmers and field technicians and once again I was made to feel extremely welcomed.  The work entailed taking seedlings from a nursery area and planting on the farms where I was introduced to the alley cropping method and later at a water catchment where the planting was more random.  While the work was not difficult it was quite tough especially with an old back like mine!

After this exercise, our next stop was in  In Menji. Here, we visited three schools talking to them about the importance of conservation and helping them to plant trees on the school grounds.  I was really impressed with the student’s knowledge and interest in environmental matters. I learnt about pruning and mulching and used a machete for the first time in my life.  

From Menji, we visited the Fon at Balafotio in the West Region of Cameroon and took part in the Agroforestry Day Celebration where I witnessed a huge display of agricultural products by local farmers. Hearing the famers tell how agro forestry methods increased their yields was quite satisfying…thumbs up to ERuDeF.

My time working in the field was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  It wasn’t always easy but that gave me even more of a sense of achievement.  What made it stand out for me was the welcome I received everywhere I went and the passion with which ERuDeF staff and farmers alike carried out their work.  I learnt far more than I could have imagined about Agro Forestry methods.

I also know much more about Cameroon and realise it is a wonderful country with fantastic people.  I will certainly be telling my friends and family about my great experiences here and encouraging them to come here.

Finally, I have to thank everyone at ERuDeF for the welcome I received from each and everyone for making my experience here so positive. However, I must also say a special thanks to Louis Nkembi CEO of ERuDeF who did everything possible to make my first visit to Cameroon and ERuDeF, something I will always treasure.