Great Ape Conservation
The Great Ape Conservation in the Dja-Minkele-Odzala Tri-national forest (TRIDOM) project, implemented as a partnership between Living Earth (UK) and Bristol Zoo Gardens (BZG), validated the claim of those living in and around the protected forest areas that they share the objectives of conservationists in protecting valuable forest resources. This project ran from 2009 to 2010.
The outlook for the survival of the great ape species in the TRIDOM is bleak. Increased external threats from logging and poaching and the limited power of local populations to protect what they see as “their” forest, has enhanced this. The project built on the work of the Dja Periphery Community Engagement Project (DPCEP) and was funded by US Fish and Wildlife Service. Through DPCEP, relationships were established in several communities around the Dja Biosphere Reserve, identifying two key messages as central:
- Villagers outlined that the greatest threat to apes, other species and their forest habitat came from outsiders from their community.
- Villagers wanted to ensure support for law enforcement and management of ‘their’ forest, but felt helpless and uncertain as to how they could contribute. (DPCEP output, January 08)
This Great Ape Conservation project aimed to address these issues through promoting a model of community-based conservation; one which recognised the value of local communities and engaged them to develop long-term solutions to challenges faced.
Develop and implement a great ape conservation education programme in schools around the Dja Biosphere Reserve (DBR) in Cameroon
Identify ways for local communities to collaborate with law enforcement and conservation agents within the region to implement a practical ‘early warning system’, utilising local knowledge
The main project output was the publication of 500 teachers packs which, combined with training, allowed local teachers to present relevant and engaging conservation lessons to schoolchildren living around the Dja Biosphere Reserve and enabled understanding on the plight of great apes in the region.
Through involving local populations in the development of content for the schools teaching materials, the project ensured that the voice and perspective of stakeholders was heard in the wider conservation debate, with school children presented with lessons on conservation relevant to their reality, enabling them to take action themselves.
Local community involvement ensured that poor communities experiencing environmental and economic pressures, were able to determine the value placed on forest and wildlife conservation; furthering the ongoing process of trust-building between stakeholder groups and outside agencies.
These two processes – gaining recognition of their concerns by the outside world and articulating the value of conservation to them – provided an opportunity to involve communities in enforcement and protection systems. The project introduced communities to different systems and outlined potential roles to protect their environmental heritage.