The Minister of Forestry and Wildlife, Elvis Ngolle Ngolle has invited scores of NGOs involved in conservation, development partners, researchers and academics to play a major role in preserving the four species of 'robust' chimpanzee in Africa.
He was addressing stakeholders in Yaounde yesterday June 22 at the launch of the Regional Plan for the Conservation of the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti).
Though the total population of Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee may number as few as 3,500, the Minister urged all stakeholders and partners to remember that the species hold a special place in the minds and hearts of human beings, especially in sharing a large proportion of intellectual material.
This explains why all hands are on deck to make sure that this potential is not extinct to promote tourism in the two countries, Nigeria's High Commissioner to Cameroon, Philip A, Dauda, said.
The Regional Action Plan for the conservation of the Nigeria-Cameroon Chimpanzee aims at determining priority sites for chimpanzee conservation. It is also to ensure that action is taken to promote its long-term survival. It was revealed that two long-term research projects on the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee are underway.
One is in Gashaka Gumti National Park in Nigeria (since 2000), and efforts in Cameroon are concentrated in the forest of the proposed Ebo National Park in the Littoral Region (since 2002).
Experts said the endemic specie in South Western Cameroon and Nigeria corresponds to a biodiversity hotspot of global significance with range-restricted and critically endangered primates such as the Cross-River gorilla, drill and preuss's red colobus present in the same forests. The Nigeria-Cameroon region harbours 24 primate species and eight of them are said to be unique in the world.
The Minister said the action plan has estimated the remaining population of this flagship species in Nigeria-Cameroon at 3,500. In Cameroon, it lives in forested habitat to the north of the Sanaga River towards the Nigeria border area, notably in the South West, Littoral, Centre, and North West Regions.
The very restricted distribution, as well as the increasing degree of threats to its long-term survival, has led to the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee being classified as 'endangered' on the IUCN red list.
Earlier, an expert with the Ebo Forest Research programme and the San Diego Zoo, Bethan Morgan, told stakeholders at the ceremony that the plan took four years to come to fruition with workshops held in Nigeria and Cameroon.