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<!---Biodiversity foldout PDF: 727KB--->Global Biodiversity Outlook
Facts on Biodiversity & Human Well-being


Protected Areas and World Heritage

COUNTRY Cameroon 

NAME Dja Faunal Reserve


IV (Nature Conservation Reserve/Managed Nature Reserve)
Biosphere Reserve
Natural World Heritage Site - Criteria ii, iv

BIOGEOGRAPHICAL PROVINCE 3.02.01 (Congo Rain Forest)

GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION On the Dja River in the Central-Southern and Eastern Provinces of Cameroon, 243km south-east of Yaoundé, and 5km west of Lomie. The river almost completely encircles the reserve, forming its natural boundary, except to the south-west. 2° 49'-3° 23'N, 12° 25'-13° 35'E

DATE AND HISTORY OF ESTABLISHMENT Protected as a 'réserve de faune et de chasse' by Law No. 319 of 25 April 1950, and then as a 'réserve de faune' under the National Forestry Act Ordinance No. 73/18 of 22 May 1973. Reported to have received some protection as early as 1932, protection for certain species within Dja was stipulated by Decree No. 2254 of 18 November 1947, which regulated hunting in the French African territories. Internationally recognised as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1981 and inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1984. Proposed as a national park.

AREA 526,000ha. Biosphere Reserve 500,000ha.


ALTITUDE 400m to 800m

PHYSICAL FEATURES Except in the south-east of the reserve, the relief is fairly flat and consists of a succession of round-topped hills. A major fault line on the southern edge of the reserve, which is followed by the Dja River, has lead to the formation of rather deeper cut valleys on the south eastern edge of the plateau. The reserve is, in fact, virtually encircled by the Dja River, which flows west along the long northern boundary of the reserve, and then along the southern boundary, before flowing southeast as a tributary to the Congo. Cliffs run along the course of the river in the south for some 60km, and are associated with a section of the river broken up by rapids and waterfalls. The underlying substratum is formed of crystalline metamorphic rocks of Precambrian origin, part of the Mbalmayo-Bengbis series. These are principally schists, gneisses and quartzite. The soil is porous red ferralitic clay, poor in nutrients and fragile.

CLIMATE Equatorial type climate, with two rainfall peaks (May and September), and temperatures similar throughout the year. Mean annual temperature is 23.3° C (recorded at 640m) and the mean annual rainfall around 1570mm. August is the coolest month, with a mean monthly minimum of 18° C and maximum of 27° C, and April is the hottest with mean minimum temperature of 19° C and maximum of 30° C. There is less than 100mm rainfall during 3 months of the year.

VEGETATION Dja is located in a transition zone between the forests of southern Nigeria and south-west Cameroon and the forests of the Congo Basin, and it seems likely that the forests of the region are essentially undisturbed. The vegetation mainly comprises dense evergreen Congo rain forest with a main canopy at 30-40m rising to 60m. Some 43 species of tree form the canopy, with legumes being particulary common. Species listed include Afzelia bipindensis (V), Anthonotha ferruginea and Piptandeniastrum africanum (V) in the Leguminosae, Sterculia oblonga and Triplochiton scleroxylon (V) in the Sterculiaceae, rouge Entandrophragma sp., Guarea cedrata, and Lovoa trichilioides in the Meliaceae, and Baillonella toxisperma (V) in the Sapotaceae, as well as Afrostyrax lepidophyllus, Anopyxis klaineana, Terminalia superba (V), kapok Ceiba pentandra, Nauclea diderrichii (V), and Canarium schweinfurthii. The shrub layer contains over 53 species including species of Diospyros and Drypetes, as well as internationally threatened Staudtia kamerunensis (V), Cola spp., Syzygium jambos, Macaranga sp. and Dacryodes buettneri (V). The forest is also rich in lianes. The herbaceous layer is composed principally of Marantaceae and Mapania spp. The Congo rainforest is also characterised by almost pure stands of Gilbertiodendron dewevrei forest. Other main vegetation types are swamp vegetation with Anthocleista nobilis, Raphia hookeri and Alstonai (Pacouria) spp., and secondary forest around old villages (which were abandoned in 1946) and recently abandoned cocoa and coffee plantations. Composition of the secondary forest is noticeably different as a result of the relative scarcity of species of the Meliaceae. Results of a 1987 vegetation survey are given in Bedel et al., 1987. Unless otherwise indicated, threatend species are threatened at a national level.

FAUNA Although the area is poorly studied, it is known to have a wide range of primate species including western lowland gorilla Gorilla gorilla gorilla (EN), greater white-nosed guenon Cercopithecus nictitans, moustached guenon C. cephus, crowned guenon C. pogonias, talapoin Miopithecus talapoin, red-capped mangabey Cercocebus torquatus (LR), white-cheeked mangabey C. albigena, agile mangabey C. galeritus (LR), drill Mandrillus leucophaeus (EN), mandrill Mandrillus sphinx (LR), potto Perodicticus potto, Demidorff's galago Galago demidovii, black and white colobus monkey Colobus angolensis and chimpanzee Pan troglodytes (EN). Other mammals include elephant Loxodonta africana (EN), bongo Tragelaphus euryceros (LR), sitatunga T. spekei (LR), buffalo Syncerus caffer (LR), leopard Panthera pardus, warthog Phacochoerus aethiopicus, giant forest hog Hylochoerus meinertzhageni, and pangolin Manis sp. Birds include Bates's weaver Ploceus batesi (VU), which is endemic to southern Cameroon, and grey-necked picathartes Picathartes oreas (VU) probably also occurs in this reserve. The type locality of Dja River warbler Bradypterus grandis (DD) is near the reserve and there are few other records of this kind. Reptiles include python, lizard and two species of crocodile (both of which are threatened species). Details of a 1987 fauna survey are given in Bedel et al. (1987).

CULTURAL HERITAGE A population of pygmies lives within the reserve, in small sporadic encampments, maintaining an essentially traditional lifestyle (although there would appear to be an increasing use of more modern methods).

LOCAL HUMAN POPULATION The pygmies are free to hunt within the reserve using traditional methods. Although population density in the region is low, there are some villages close to the reserve. Inhabitants near Somalomo fish in the Dja and tributaries on its left bank, and cultivate mainly coffee, cocoa and cucumbers (for their seeds, which fetch high prices) (Bedel et al., 1987).

VISITORS AND VISITOR FACILITIES None. Bedel et al. (1987) make recommendations for tourism development to involve the local population.

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND FACILITIES Some phytogeographic studies have been carried out (Letouley, 1968), and a research report on fauna has been prepared (Rowell, 1975), yet the reserve is essentially poorly known. There are no research facilities.

CONSERVATION VALUE Comprises one of the largest and best protected humid forests in Africa, which is particularly noted for its biodiversity and wide variety of primates.

CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT Agriculture and hunting are prohibited within the reserve, and access is restricted. No commercial logging has taken place within the reserve itself, and few people have lived there since villages were relocated in the 1940s prior to establishment. Traditional hunting rights are allowed and hunting is heavily practised, but the use of non-traditional hunting methods needs to be controlled. The Dja River forms a natural boundary round much of the reserve, and there are currently three guard posts to the east and north-west. Two new posts are in the process of being established to the north and north-west but surveillance and management is inadequate (Bedel et al., 1987). Since establishment of the reserve in 1950, management has been restricted to protection of the resources, and in particular anti-poaching activities; however, there is little infrastructure and few staff, which means that there is currently little effective management. This is not at present a problem because of the relatively low level of threat, but may well become so. A provisional management plan for the proposed national park has been prepared at the Ecole de Faune at Garoua (van der Zon et al., 1986) which discusses further this and other problems and outlines possible solutions. Dja is one of the sites identified by IUCN/WWF Project 1613 (which aims to further the conservation of primates and tropical rain forest) as important for primate and rain forest conservation in West Africa.

MANAGEMENT CONSTRAINTS Cocoa, coffee and subsistence plots encroach onto the reserve, particularly on the northern and western borders, and poaching occurs. According to Gartlan and Agland (1982) the traditional hunting methods of the pygmies are being superseded, and the pygmies are tending towards a more sedentary life. This may cause problems in the future, and will need to be closely monitored. However, Bedel et al. (1987) stress the importance of hunting to the livelihood of the local population and of establishing local associations to monitor hunting pressure. The reserve has been subject to mineral exploitation in the past but no exploitable deposits were located within its boundaries. However, further investigation is being made on calcareous bodies on the south-east border of the reserve and this may lead to open-cast mining for cement production. Perhaps of more current concern is the possible routing of the Trans-African highway close to the southern boundary of the reserve (undated information).

The greatest threats to biodiversity in Cameroon come from deforestation and poaching. Larege-scale commercial logging has been encouraged by the government and low prices for cocoa and coffee has made sales of bushmeat more important to local people (Alpert, 1993). New logging roads and and concessions are resulting in forest clearance right up to the boundary. Logging is mainly by international companies, provides few benefits to local people, and currently is practiced in an ecologically unsustainable manner. The logging roads are facilitating access to Dja by poachers and there are increasing reports of heavy poaching inside the park. Employees of one logging company threatened park guards with violence when they were apprehended taking poached wildlife (IUCN, 1997).

STAFF The protection staff of the reserve at present consists of a warden and seven guards based at Messamena (although the warden still lives some 50km from the reserve) (undated information).

BUDGET Annual budget is reported to be around 1.5 million FCA to cover staffing costs, and some 30 million FCA is likely to be made available during 1987 for construction of administrative buildings and staff accommodation.


Coordinateur du Programme Dja, Ministere de l'Environment et des Fôrets, Yaoundé (Tel (237) 23-92-32).


Alpert, P. (1993) Conserving biodiversity in Cameroon. Ambio 12(1): 44-49.

Bedel, J., Bousquet, B and Gourlet, S. (1987). Réserve Biosphère du Dja. Report to the Government of Cameroun and Unesco/MAB by the Ecole Nationale du Génie Rural des Eaux et des Forêts (Montpellier). 96 pp.

Belinga, Eko (1982). Rapport de stage: étude monographique de la Réserve du Dja. Ecole pour la formation de spécialistes de la faune, Garoua.

Gartlan, J.S. and Agland, P.C. (1980). A Proposal for a Program of Rainforest Conservation and National Park Development in Cameroon, West Central Africa. Report presented to the Gulf Oil Corporation and Société Nationale Elf Aquitaine.

IUCN (1997) State of conservation of natural World Heritage properties. Report prepared for the World Heritage Bureau, 21st session, UNESCO, Paris, 23-28th June. 7pp.

Letouzey, R. (1968). Etudes phytogeographiques au Cameroun. Editions Paul Lechevalier, Paris.

MAB/MESRES (1984). Projet pilote MAB de recherche écologique dans la réserve forestière et de faune du Dja (projet MAB RFD), Yaoundé.

Rowell, T.E. (1975). Report on the Reserve du Faune du Dja. University of California, Berkeley. Department of Zoology.

Van der Zon, A.P.M. and Jean Nkemi à Tchie Dong à Echiké (1986). Le Parc National du Dja, Cameroun: Plan d'aménagement provisoire. Ecole de Faune, BP 271, Garoua, Cameroun.

WWF Project 1613. International - Primate Action Fund.


DATE June 1987, updated May 1990, August 1997.


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