SYNOPSIS OF EXPEDITION
(Case of a four-week volunteer who signs up for our Conservation Programme in the Lebialem Highlands)
Day one: Pick up
An ERuDeF staff will be available at the airport with a card bearing the name of the volunteer. He/she will be outside waiting because of entry restrictions and volunteers are advised to always come outside. The volunteers luggage is packed into the ERuDeF truck and after a two to three hour drive, he or she is lodged at a hotel in Buea (Hotel Carlos) where he spends the night. The volunteer is handed an information package containing vital information about the entire expedition.
Volunteers are advised to always use the Douala International Airport. This is because of its proximity to the head quarter of the organization (about 2 hours) and the project sites.
.Day Two: Orientation
This one of the most preponderant part of the programme. As it gives the volunteer some guidelines that will help him/her through the entire expedition. It is characterised by the Presentation of ERuDeF/programmes and activities; field realities and what the organization expects from the the volunteer/ecotourist; discussion of field plan and expedition objectives. The volunteer is also given the opportunity to do some desktop study of apes (cross river gorillas and Nigeria Cameroon Chimpanzees) that is their ecology/behavioural patterns and threats they are exposed to.
Day Three and Four : Departure to the Field
Volunteers/ecotourists and ERuDeF IVP staff are expected to organise and pack their bags into the field truck or take them to the bus station in case the field truck is not available.
Volunteers could leave some of their luggage not needed in the forest either in ERuDeF office in Buea or in local communities in order to avoid excess luggage in the forest. Volunteers are also expected to carry minimum luggage while hiking into the forest.
Travelling duration vary with the project sites:
1. proposed Bechati – Mone corridor
– Buea to Bamenda = 6-7hours
– Bamenda to Bokwa = 2hours
– Bokwa, Mile 29 to forest base = 2 hours
2. Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary
– Buea to Menji through Dschang = 7-8hours
– Menji to Fossimondi = 1h.30mins
– Fossimondi village to forest base = 4hrs
– Menji to Besali, Bechati = 3-4hrs
– Bechati village to forest base = 2hrs
– Besali to forest base camp = 3hrs
3. Proposed Mak-Betchou Chimpanzee Sanctuary
– Buea to Dschang = 4-5hours
– Dschang to Menji = 2hours
– Menji to Andu = 1hour
– Andu village to forest base = 6 hours
NB: Travelling from Menji to the Communities is done by motor bike
Day Five to Seven: School/Community Conservation Education
Volunteers under the supervision of the ERuDeF Education for Sustainable Development Coordinator, educate the kids on conservation of great apes; Identify individual projects that could help the community and conservation; tell kids stories and play educative games with them; offer gifts (in form of prizes) to kids after quizzes. This is carried out in primary and secondary schools adjacent the forest and in the communities. There is an evaluation meeting at the end of each day to discus the exercise. During this exercise, they will spend the night in a local hotel or the chief’s palace with very little or no modern facility
Day Eight: Meeting with Village Head and Hiking to Base Camp
Volunteers/ecotourists and the ERuDeF IVP staff visits the village traditional ruler Traditional blessing/Libation as they are about going into the forest. After this meeting, they ERuDeF IVP staff locates Field Guides and Potters; Volunteers pack their materials in at most 2 bags. They will be given a convenient weight to carry even if it’s not one of their bags. The porters will carry the heaviest bags and they will all hike to the base camp.
Volunteers are expected to follow the instructions of the team leader. They could bring along candies or energy bars, which they will consume during the 10mins breaks, during the hike. This exercise takes about two to three hours depending on the pace of the team. At the camp, the ERuDeF IVP with assistance from volunteers mount the tents where they will spend the night for the rest of the tracking period. Everyone takes part in this activity. Volunteers may probably share a tent.
Day Nine to Fifteen: Apes Tracking
This is the crux of the conservation programme of IVP. It begins with a short training session on survey/data collection techniques and then the tracking proper. During this period the team is expected to;
-Be quiet during tracking hours
-Follow the field guide accurately
-Ask questions when in doubt
-Take GPS coordinates of apes and human signs
-Follow apes tracks
-Identify apes threats
-Fill data sheets
-Take pictures and videos
-Carry along some energy providing biscuits or candies while tracking· At the end of each tracking day, the team evaluates the signs identified during the days tracking, discuss individual challenges of the day and ways to improve the next day’s hike.
NB: There is only one base camp where the team spend the night and go for tracking
Day Sixteen: Hiking Back to the Community
Tents are dismounted with everyone is expected to take part in this activity. The tents are fragile, so they have to be handled with care. The hiking pace may be slower than during the daily surveys because everyone will be carrying heavy bags.
Day Seventeen and Eighteen: School/Community Conservation Education
(Same activities as Day Five to Seven)
Day Nineteen: Hiking to Base Camp
(See Day Eight above)
Day Twenty to twenty Four Apes Tracking
(Same as Day Nine to Fifteen)
Day Twenty Five: Hiking back to the Community and Travelling to Menji.
Day Twenty Six Travelling to Buea and Lodging
Day Twenty Seven: Restitution Meeting/Visit to Limbe Wildlife Center
The restitution meeting is aimed at evaluating the entire expedition taking stock of what went right/wrong and getting recommendations for improvement. During this meeting the volunteers are expected to:
– Share Field experiences
– Share best and worst moments during the program
– Answer questions from audience and ask some(ERuDeF staff)
– Fill evaluation forms
– Discuss recommendations
– Discuss volunteer projects identified on the field.
– Write some form of news – article on their trip
At the end of the restitution meeting, the volunteer(s) and ERuDeF IVP staff visit the Limbe Wildlife Centre home to some 15 primate species including gorillas , chimpanzees, drills, mandrills, baboons monkeys, piton, crocodile, etc in captivity. At this level, volunteers are expected to
· Take pictures of the species at the centre.
· Get a detailed orientation on the centre and the species present.
· Ask questions etc
A farewell lunch of roasted sea fish is organised at the Limbe Down Beach to officially bit farewell to the volunteers. The Wildlife Center and Down Beach have some arts and craft material which volunteers may want to buy as souvenirs.
Day Twenty Eight: Drop Off
Volunteers are dropped off at the Douala airport (a 2-3hours drive from Buea). If volunteer wishes to stay on or go on a different trip this can be arranged. Volunteers are expected to pay an airport tax of 10,000 FCFA (about $ 20).
SOME EXPEDITION SITES
(Case of Lebialem Highlands)
THE TOFALA HILL WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
The Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary is located between longitudes 598006m and 609830m and latitude 615778m and 634006m. The area is characterised by an undulated landscape from Bechati (365m) in the lower altitudes to Fossimondi (2400m) in the higher altitudes, with a chain of peaks notably the Tofala Hill (866m). The area has a humid tropical climate with an average rainfall of about 3,500mm, (Gartlan, 1989) and a distinct dry (November to February) and rainy (March to October) seasons. Daily temperatures vary between 20°c and 35°c, with the peak in March. The soil composition varies with altitude: humid volcanic soils with average fertility in the higher altitudes around Fossimondi and sandy soils with the lowest fertility around Bechati, in the lower altitudes. The area falls within the tropical lowland rainforests and varies from the lowland rainforest, through sub montane to a montane forest.
The area harbors two great apes species: the critically endangered CrossRiver gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli) and the most endangered subspecies of the African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes ellioti) (Oates et al, 2007 and Bethan et al 2010). Other large mammals found within this site include: Drills(Mandrillusleucophaeus) endemic to this region, Bush baby(Peridicticus pottos), Putty-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus nictitans) and the Red-eared monkey (Cercopithecus erythrotis). Also, this area has a viable population of some globally threatened species of birds which inclue: Bannerman’s turaco (Turaco bannermani), Banded wattled-eye (Plastysteira laticincta), Cameroon Montane Greenbul (Andropadus montanus), Bannerman’s weaver (Ploceus bannermani), Red headed Picathartes (Picathartes gymnocephalus), Green Breasted Bush-Shrike (Malaconotus gladiator) and Bangwa forest wabbler (Bradypterus bangwaensis).
THE BECHATI MONE FOREST CORRIDOR
Bechati Mone Forest Corridor forms part of the Lebialem-Mone Forest Landscape, located in the Northern parts of South West Region. This area is located specifically between the UTM coordinates 560000m and 630000m and longitude 570000m and 630000m with an area of approximately 40,000 hectares.
It lies within the equatorial rainforest zone characterized by two (2) major seasons; the dry season (Nov-Feb) and the wet season (Mar-Oct), with the peak in August. Its altitude ranges from 130 to 1200 m a.s.l, giving rise to two broad vegetation types; the lowland forest and the sub-montane forest. This vegetation accounts for the huge flora and fauna diversity of the area.
Large mammals found in the site include two species of great apes; CrossRiver gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), chimpanzee (Pan Troglodytes vellerosus), which are critically endangered and endangered respectively. Other large mammals found in the site include:forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer), the bay duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis), peter’s duikers (Cephalophus callipygus), the white-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus nictitans), Mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona), red tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius) and the red river hog (Potamochoerus porcus).
So far about 28 villages are adjacent this forest site, some of which include: Kugwe, Anemafon, Nyeneba, Fumbe, Ewa, Etuko Mile 22, Nchinda, Kekpoti, Numba, Ditche 1, Ditche 2, Bokwa and Kendem. Socio-economic activities of the people surrounding this forest include: farming (with principal crops being cocoa and plantain), hunting of wildlife species for subsistence and commercial purposes, collection of Non Timber Forest Products. They are also involved in large scale fishing, petty trading and palm oil production for commercial reasons.
THE PROPOSED MAK-BETCTHOU CHIMPANZEE SANCTUARY
The Mak-Betchou Forest Block constitutes one of the six forest blocks that make up the Lebialem-Mone Forest Landscape. It is located within the UTM Grid Zone 32, specifically between the longitudes 586000m and 596000 m and 598000m and 606000m, with a surface area of about 22,000 hectares.
This area also lies within the Equatorial rainforest zone characterized by two (02) main seasons; two (2) major seasons; the dry season which runs from November-February and the wet season which runs from March-October, with the peak rainfall in the August. The annual rainfall recorded in the area is as high as 3500mm (Gartlan, 1989). Its altitude ranges from about 300m to about 1400m a.s.l. This altitudinal variation gives rise to two main types of vegetation: the lowland and the Sub montane forest which makes this area unique in terms of flora and fauna diversity.
Great ape species found in this area include the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzees (Pan Troglodytes ellioti), the most endangered of the African Chimpanzee. Other large mammals found in this area include: the forest elephant (Loxondata africana), Drills (Mandrillus leuceuphaus), Bush baby (Potto), Blue duiker (Cephalophus monticola), Red River hog (Potamochoerus Porcus), Red eared monkey (Cercopithecus erythrotis) and Mona monkey (Cercopithecus mona). Also, this area is a home to some globally threatened species of birds such as: the Cameroon Montane Greenbul (Andropadus montanus), Crossley’s Ground thrush (Zoothera prince), Bangwa forest warbler (Bradypterus bangweasis), Green breasted bush shrike (Malacontus cruentus) and Red headed picathartes (Picathartes oreas).
About 15 villages are adjacent this forest block, some of which include: Essoh Attah, Njorgwi, Lechataw, Minka, Andu, Fotabong II, Fotabong III, Njentse and Ngoh. These communities depend on the forest and its resources for survival. The main activities of the local people inhabiting the adjacent communities include: farming (with principal crops being cocoa), hunting, fishing and collection of Non-Timber Forest Products especially the bush mango (irvingia gabonesis).