Take a deep breath. We are at the foot of the Manengouba Mountain that straddles part of the Southwest and Littoral Regions of Cameroon. The physical beauty of this mountain dazzles first time visitors as they wheel on up its valley views. But you are even more awe-struck when you begin to see and feel the exceptional biodiversity richness of this verdant mountain coupled with the languid and enigmatic Manengouba twin lakes.
Mount Manengouba is considered one of the main biodiversity "hot spots" in Cameroon. It is reputed for its high concentration of endemic species of reptiles, half of the amphibian populations (100) in Cameroon, 270 species of birds and its rich botanical diversity.
For the Mbo and Bakossi natives of the area, the Manengouba mountain and lakes are bastions of their spirituality, sacred sites, cultural pride and above all source of livelihood. They use, for example, the indigenes use the frogs and toads for food and medicine.
A study conducted by the Cameroon Wildlife Conservation Society in December 2018 revealed signs of the presence of 13 mammal species including drills, duikers and pangolins.
A pearl facing threats
Lately it seems, the abrasive impact of human activities, are perturbing the benignity and placidity of the mountain and lakes. “Increased demand for fertile land for agriculture, grazing, firewood exploitation, and housing construction have led to the deforestation and fragmentation of natural habitats on the slopes of the mountain,” says experts of the Cameroon wildlife conservation society (CWCS). “These combined human activities have irrevocably altered the forest landscape with obvious negative effects on the habitats around streams and springs, where endemic amphibians are known to live and breed,” the conservation organization says. A report of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published in 2018, revealed that almost 90% per cent of amphibians on Mount Manengouba are threatened with extinction.
In an effort to protect the rich biodiversity of this landscape for the wellbeing of the people living around the mountain and the twin lakes, CWCS has conducted biological and socio economic studies, in order to make a case for the creation of the first ever sanctuary for reptiles, amphibians and birds (Herpeto-ornithological sanctuary) in Cameroon.
The sanctuary that will cover 4737 hectares, will protect the endemic reptiles, amphibians and bird species of the landscape, guarantee the wellbeing of local people through the protection of water catchments, protection of cultural and sacred sites, promotion of ecotourism and protection of the Manengouba lakes thereby protecting the water basin of the Moungo, Wouri and Manyu rivers in the Littoral and Southwest Regions of Cameroon.
For the more than 10000 people living around the Manengouba Mountain and lakes, the creation of a sanctuary is a beacon of hope for a brighter future. As one of them said: “This sanctuary will protect our rich biodiversity, preserve our cultural heritage and boost our development. This area requires special attention for the wellbeing of people and nature,” he said.