Since childhood, I have been dreaming of going to the rainforest to observe wildlife in their natural habitat. This dream heightened when I saw the critical situation of chimpanzees living in the Jane Goodalls Chimp Eeden Rehabilitation Center in South Africa during a visit in 2016. So I went online, researched and decided to join this volunteering program. In Cameroon, I was very much welcome by the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF) staff. It was a real pleasure to meet the ERuDeF staff, who unveiled to us the organisation’s large scale conservation project all over the country during the first days. From the presentation, I understood that ERuDeF is not only focused on wildlife conservation but is also involved in lots of development projects improving the life of the people surrounding the sanctuary. Some of these included the palm oil mills, beehives, and livestock farming . My volunteering trip took me to the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary. It was a very long trip from Buea to Bechati but I was greatly rewarded by astonishing wildlife and a very friendly local community. I saw so many signs of gorilla’s and chimpanzees; amazing brightly colored birds and so many different butterfly species. On top of that, I was really very fortunate to have a direct observation of 3 chimps after an exhausting struggle with the topography of the Tofala hills. Unfortunately during the many expedition days, we also saw many wildlife threats in the Sanctuary; right in the core of these chimps and gorillas habitat, we saw fresh cleared ground for the creation of new farms, active houses, hunting sign etc. I really do hope this unique sanctuary with its critically endangered habitants can be secured for further generations. The people who joined the expedition are very engaged to fulfill this task. I would like to thank the whole team for the great support and dedication towards conserving these African primates most especially ERuDeF Biologists (Gwendolyn and Grace); the Biomonitors (Jacob, Andreas and Solomon) and finally the Eco Guards (Christian, Jannick, Schwebo & Placide) Special thanks to Mr. Louis Nkembi and his family for their great hospitality and dedication for this great conservation project.
Dirk Meersman, Volunteer from Belgium