With its growing wish to act outside of its borders, the Zoo de Granby initiated in 2015 an ambitious conservation project in Cameroon. The project was aimed at Campo Ma’an National Park in the southern part of the country and was planned in collaboration with the Foundation for the Environment and Development in Cameroon, the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Five objectives were established to succeed with this elephant and gorilla conservation initiative while advocating territory protection through the involvement of the bordering communities.
The five objectives:
Patrick Paré, biologist and Conservation & Research director, traveled to Yaoundé and Campo Ma’an National Park three times between 2015 to 2017 to create partnerships, establish these objectives, meet with the different government agents, develop projects and initiate actions. In 2018, a $200,000 fund-raising campaign was launched by the Fondation du Zoo de Granby to support the project.
Valérie Michel, an animal care technician, traveled to the park in 2018 and 2019 in order to collaborate with conservation and research actions initiated by the different partners. Being used to care for large animals at the zoo, she was able to contribute to different projects. Among these, she assisted the veterinary personnel designated by the WWF and collaborated with investigating the challenges the communities must face with migrating elephants.
A doctoral project, in collaboration with Concordia University, is actually studying the dynamics of the elephant population and aiming at recommending solutions for a more harmonious coexistence between the pachyderms and the human communities.
The zoo also financed the construction of a research laboratory for wildlife diseases (zoonoses) as well as the purchase of motorcycles and other equipment for trackers and eco-guards. Finally, a community beekeeping project with the installation of 18 hives has been very productive. The first honey and wax harvests were carried out in January 2019. Candles and mead were also produced thanks to their harvested products.
Vision for the Future
The preservation of the 350 forest elephants and the 700 eastern lowland gorillas living in the Campo Ma’an National Park is still a priority for the Zoo de Granby and its partners. Over the next few years, the following objectives are planned:
To study elephant migration more in depth.
To test mitigation methods that could limit wildlife and human conflicts.
To further develop apiculture activities.
To document the risks of wildlife diseases and the strategies to adopt to promote the health of the gorilla populations in the park.
To provide field team workers state-of-the-art equipment and support.
To collaborate with the mission of raising awareness within the communities, education in schools and ecotourism in the park.
Did you know that?
One of the objectives of this project in the Campo Ma’an National Park is to solve potential conflicts between elephants and the communities living around the protected area? Indeed, these communities have had their livelihoods and their plantations ransacked by these big pachyderms. To counter this problem, and to keep the autochthonous communities of Bakola-Bagyeli Pygmies safe, the Zoo de Granby borrowed an idea developed by Disney and by the University of Oxford who invented the concept of bee fences. Elephants don’t seem to appreciate these insects with their mean sting!Thanks to the hives that were placed around plantations, the community crops are well protected, and bees provide the population with honey as well!
Campo-Ma’an National Park covers an area of 264,000 hectares (more than 5 times the island of Montreal) and is surrounded by dozens of villages and a population of 100,000 mainly indigenous people. The park is registered among the 33 priority zones of the Network of Protected Areas in Central Africa. Located nearby the port city of Kribi, a popular tourist seaside resort, the park welcomes a few hundred visitors annually. Its ecotourism potential is, of course, much higher. The park has a great variety of habitats and shelters dozens of endangered species. More than 700 gorillas, 700 chimpanzees, 350 elephants, some 300 bird species and 122 reptile species are found in it. It is also the only protected area where the mandrill can be found in Cameroon.
An employee of the zoo joins the action
After completing a college degree in Animal Care and having lived many enriching experiences on the African continent, Valerie Michel now works with the elephants and gorillas at the Zoo de Granby.
It is her mandate to travel to the Campo Ma’an National Park to participate in its conservation activities along with a team of representatives from the Foundation for Environment and Development in Cameroon, the park conservation services, the World Wildlife Fund and the Concordia University.