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Towards a better knowledge of the Cameroonian aquatic megafauna *


                                             Towards a better knowledge of the Cameroonian aquatic megafauna *

Since November 2017, AMMCO has set itself the goal of monitoring Cameroon's north coast, in order to better understand the composition and abundance of the marine and aquatic megafauna species in this part of the country.

The main purpose of this activity is the improvement of the conservation of the aquatic megafauna located along the coast of Cameroon, as well as the preservation of their habitat. This is done by documenting strandings of animals such as the manatee, cetaceans (whales, dolphins, ...) and fish such as sharks and rays. All this, in order to know the dynamics of their populations, the mortality rate, the risks and the threats that weigh on the target species. In addition, the morphometric data collected (sizes, weights or any other index providing information on the morphology of the animal) and the analysis of the stomach contents will improve the biological knowledge of the species found. They can be used to better understand the diet of these animals, the dynamics of their populations, the constitution of DNA, their distribution according to geographical areas among others. All these data provide information on their conservation status (Not evaluated, minor concern, near-threatened, vulnerable, endangered etc ... (see IUCN Red List), and thus allow to put in place strategies to improve their status.

  • Method used

The observation network established by AMMCO since 2012 is the main tool for reporting and sharing information in the event of strandings. Volunteer fishermen are recruited after a training on awareness. The table below shows the results of strandings in the localities of Limbé, Tiko, Bamusso, Idenau and Bakinguili located in the south-west region of Cameroon, in Tissongo and Dizangue in the coastal region, and in Kribi, in the Southern region since November 2016.

Chronological summary of strandings

Species

Number of stranded individuals

Nombre of individuals dead

Nombre of living individuals

Cause of death

Dolphins

04

02

02

RAS

Whales

04

04

00

RAS

Manatees

05

05

00

RAS

 

The activities of the project titled "Using Collaborative and Community Approaches to Improve the Conservation Status of Marine Turtles and Marine Megafauna on the North Coast of Cameroon" are part of the (Small Initiative Program) grant provided by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). It includes the areas of Limbé, Batoké, Bamusso, Idenau and Bakinguili in the south-west region of Cameroon.

The South Coast is part of the Conservation Action Research Network program funded under the Congo Basin Funding Program. The database of information on species that are stranded on our beaches is becoming richer. In addition to the tracking of strandings, a follow-up of the boat landings in the several localities of the North coast is carried out. This process made it possible to highlight the presence of the hammerhead shark and the guitar ray, species that were not yet registered on the south coast.

Raising awareness: a major asset against poaching

The awareness campaign targeting the communities near the most important nesting areas was conducted in June 2017 at the different project sites. The main objectives were to improve local knowledge and to change the perception of the lakeshore communities vis-à-vis sea turtles and their habitats. The sites of Limbe, Batoke, Bakinguili and Idénau were the subject of local awareness campaigns for a period of 4 days through the use of brochures designed for this purpose. The awareness booklet presents the different species of sea turtles encountered in Cameroon, the importance of preserving them, the factors that threaten their survival and their conservation status in accordance with the Wildlife Act of 1994 and the penalties imposed in case of violation. A total of 200 flyers and brochures were printed and distributed to approximately 300 people attending our awareness events.

The biggest challenge for our team was the language barrier. Targeted populations mainly speak pidgin (language resulting from the mixture of English and the local dialect), it was difficult to convey the messages formulated in English. The insecurity situation currently prevailing in the country remains a major obstacle to ensure a continuous monitoring of the strandings.

* The term aquatic megafauna defines aquatic animals weighing a minimum of 40kgs.


                                             Towards a better knowledge of the Cameroonian aquatic megafauna *