By Osamudiamen Idemudia (Abuja)

Nigeria and Cameroon have signed a cooperation framework agreement on trans-boundary ecosystems conservation and sustainable management to enhance protection of endangered animals, like gorillas and chimpanzees, preserve critical habitats and tackle illegal wildlife trade across the border.

The Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in Abuja, by representatives from both countries, is to address the urgent challenges of habitat loss, widespread illegal hunting, and wildlife trafficking.

It also represents a strong joint commitment to collaborate closely on various fronts related to wildlife conservation and sustainable management of natural resources.

Minister of Environment, Balarabe Abass said both countries will continue to engage in constructive dialogue, and remain steadfast in ensuring that shared natural resources are sustainably managed and conserved for the benefit of present and future generations.

“The agreement underscores the commitment of both countries to work together to manage and conserve shared natural resources and also demonstrates the importance of bilateral cooperation in tackling global challenges”, the minister noted.

In a keynote address, the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Cameron, Mr. Jules Doret Ndongo,who expressed concern on smuggling of illegal wildlife particularly elephants tusks and pangolin scales across the Nigerian-Cameroon border, urged all parties involved to be more committed in the implementation of the agreement.

In a remark, one of the stakeholders who is the Executive Director at Africa Nature Investors (ANI) Foundation, Mr Tunde Morakinyo, said, “the agreement will enable national parks such as Gashaka-Gumti and Cross River in Nigeria to work closely with their counterparts in Cameroon to protect the incredible biodiversity they share including chimpanzees, gorillas and elephants, for future generations.”

“It is hard to explain how excited I am by this historic agreement. The idea of trans-boundary collaboration on conservation was proposed as far back as 2008 recognising the spectacular national parks on both sides of the Nigeria-Cameroon border”, he said.

Mr Morakinyo explained that his organisation been pushing for this trans-boundary cooperation for a while alongside others, including the Nigeria Programme of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Ministry of Environment, National Park Service and their counterparts in Cameroon.

Also, the Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency UK, Mary Rice, noted that, “This isn’t a problem that can be tackled by one country alone,” “Wildlife trafficked from Africa to Asia invariably crosses several land borders before being exported, so international cooperation to enforce those borders is essential”.

From being the epicentre of wildlife smuggling in Africa, Nigeria is now making great strides, such as this agreement and the pending new wildlife law, to show leadership in protecting biodiversity,” said Peter Knights OBE, CEO of Wild Africa Fund.

Other international partners congratulated Nigeria and Cameroon, emphasizing that stronger collaboration along the border is necessary especially to combat wildlife trafficking.

A new Endangered Species Conservation and Protection Bill 2024, which would update and greatly improve current Nigerian laws and support international cooperation, recently passed first reading in the House of Representatives while a public hearing on the bill is scheduled for May.

Nigeria, Cameroon Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Our correspondent reports that Nigeria and Cameroon share a 1,975-kilometre border.

This region with beautiful landscape, forests and mountains, is home to Africa’s most endangered ape, the Cross River gorilla, as well as the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, drill monkey, forest elephants, leopards, crocodile, and hundreds of butterflies and bird species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Yet, the survival of these unique species is threatened by livestock grazing, illegal logging, artisanal mining, expanding agriculture, poaching, and growing human population.

Fortunately, the international border between the two countries is lined with several contiguous national parks on either side.

The Cross River National Park in Nigeria, with a total area of around 4,000 square kilometres, is adjacent to Takamanda National Park and Korup National Park in Cameroon.

Similarly, Nigeria’s 6,731-square-kilometre scenic Gashaka Gumti National Park, home to one of the largest populations of the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, is right on the border of Faro National Park and the proposed Tchabal Mbabo National Park in Cameroon.

In the north, the Chad Basin National Park is almost adjacent to Cameroon’s Waza National Park.

This trans-boundary agreement will enable these parks to work across the international border on joint protection activities.

Smuggling of illegal wildlife products, particularly elephant ivory and pangolin scales, across the Nigeria-Cameroon border is a serious challenge.

In February this year alone, the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, arrested a suspected wildlife trafficker and seized 52 elephant tusks weighing 200 kilograms in the southern Nigerian border town of Mfum near Cameroon.

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