Field Studies in Conservation Biology: 'Forest Biodiversity in Cameroon 2019'

Excursion period
March 03rd – 22nd, 2019

Cameroon and Dja Faunal Reserve

Cameroon has earned the name of “Africa in miniature” for how much it mirrors the continent’s diversity—especially from an ecological standpoint. Most of this biodiversity is found in protected areas which cover about 10% (5 million hectares) of the national territory of Cameroon.
The focus area of the study trip will be Yaoundé and Dja Faunal Reserve. Yaoundé is the capital of the country, where the headquarters of several conservation NGOs and governmental agencies are found. This includes, for example, the facilities of Congo Basin Institute (CBI), a center of higher learning and scientific excellence in Central Africa created through a partnership between UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture). CBI has its field research stations in Dja Faunal Reserve.

Dja Faunal Reserve covers an area of 526 000 ha and is located in South-Central Cameroon. It is one of Africa's most species-rich rainforests, with more than 100 mammal species (including threatened species such as the African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), the mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx), three pangolin species, black colobus (Colobus satanas)), 3500 bird species (including Bates’s Weaver (Ploceus batesi), the largest known breeding colony of the Grey-necked rockfowl (Picathartes oreas)) and 1500 plant species. It extends to 526 000 ha, was created in 1950 and was listed as UNESCO Heritage Site in 1987. As many other protected areas, there is significant human-pressure. Around the reserve, for example, there are threats like mining, logging, agricultural clearance, and construction of dams. And there is also hunting both for subsistence and commercial.

The reserve has a population of Baka pygmies who live in a relatively traditional manner. Although agriculture and commercial hunting are prohibited, Pygmies are allowed to hunt traditionally.
Near to and within Dja Reserve, CBI has two research station: Somalomo and Bouamir. Somalomo Research station is at the edge of Dja Faunal Reserve, around 4-5hours from Yaoundé. The areas around this research station include secondary forest and agricultural land. Bouamir is located in mature forest at the center of the Reserve, it is about 30 Km from Somalomo and can be reached by foot via a 7 hour hike.
Content of the course

The focus of this year’s course will be primarily on biodiversity assessments, but students will also be exposed and will learn about the conservation issues that West African rainforests face, especially during the first part of the trip.
During the first part of the trip, students will participate in a regional workshop on “Resolving conservation conflicts in West African PA’s” that will take place in Yaoundé. This regional workshop will gather international, regional, and local experts on bushmeat and conservation conflicts. Students will be able to hear and participate in the discussions and four selected students will give presentations on related research topics.
During the second part of the trip, participants will be introduced to tropical field biology, ecology, and field research methods and will get equipped with a diverse set of skills needed for ecological and conservation careers and future research. Participants will learn to identify characteristic plants and animals and will learn and practice a wide array of entomological, bird and mammal survey techniques. These may include bird captures, point counts, line transects and baited traps for butterflies. Additionally, they will learn other field skills among which GPS navigation is most important. Moreover, participants will have to analyze and interpret results of fieldwork in a collaborative report that will be submitted by the whole group at the end of the course. Also, preparing presentations for an international audience and in a developing country is part of the learning experience and a requirement for all 8 participants.

Examination procedure
Every participant will give a presentation on a conservation topic related to the excursion contents. The group of participants will prepare a joint excursion report, analyzing data from their field surveys, and reflecting on the biodiversity and the conservation issues in Cameroon. This report will also be provided to the cooperation partners in Cameroon.


Prof. Dr. Matthias Waltert
Conservation Biology/Workgroup Endangered Species Conservation
Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach-Institut für Zoologie
Bürgerstraße 50, 37073 Göttingen

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