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Nigeria and Cameroon Sign Historic Agreement to Protect Unique Wildlife and Forests

Nigeria and Cameroon join forces to tackle growing threats to biodiversity and shared areas. 

Nigeria and Cameroon have announced a strategic transboundary partnership to enhance the protection of endangered species, like gorillas and chimpanzees, preserve critical habitats and tackle illegal wildlife trade across their long border.

Nigeria shares a nearly 2,000-kilometre border with Cameroon, an area that’s home to some of Africa’s most endangered species

The Cooperation Framework Agreement signed in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, by representatives from both countries, addresses the urgent challenges of habitat loss, widespread illegal hunting, and wildlife trafficking. It represents a strong joint commitment to collaborate closely on various fronts related to wildlife conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. 

“This agreement underscores the commitment of both countries to work together to manage and conserve our shared natural resources and also demonstrates the importance of bilateral cooperation in tackling global challenges,” said Balarabe Abbas Lawal, Nigeria’s Honourable Minister of Environment. We must continue to engage in constructive dialogue, and remain steadfast in ensuring that our natural resources are sustainably managed and conserved for the benefit of present and future generations.” 

With populations that have grown and continue to grow rapidly in both countries, an emphasis on preserving natural resources for future generations is critical

Under the agreement, authorities would work together to implement joint transboundary efforts to protect shared ecosystems, routinely share information and data, conduct joint research projects, and push to expand protected areas, strengthen law enforcement mechanisms, and promote community engagement and sustainable livelihoods to mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

 “I hereby urge all parties involved in this process to be more committed to implementation,” reiterated Jules Doret Nndongo, Cameroonian Minister of Forestry and Wildlife. “Rest assured that our government will do everything possible to implement the agreement,” he concluded. 

To this end, 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. Public hearing is scheduled for May. 

Nigeria’s new bill ensures better protection for endangered species like pangolins

Nigeria and Cameroon have a 1,975-kilometre border. This region with beautiful landscapes, 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 butterfly and bird species found nowhere 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 populations.

Expanding agriculture is one of the many challenges threatening the survival of these unique species

Fortunately, the international border between the two countries is lined with several contiguous national parks on either side. 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 very north, Chad Basin National Park is almost adjacent to Cameroon’s Waza National Park. This transboundary agreement will enable these parks to work across the international border on joint protection activities. 

Both Nigerian and Cameroonian territories are home to critical habitats for the region’s ecosystem health

Smuggling of illegal wildlife products, particularly elephant ivory and pangolin scales, across the Nigeria-Cameroon border is a serious challenge.  In February, Nigeria Customs Service arrested a suspected wildlife trafficker and seized 52 elephant tusks weighing 200 kilograms in the southern Nigerian border town of Mfum near Cameroon.

“It is hard to explain how excited I am by this historic agreement. The idea of transboundary collaboration on conservation was proposed as far back as 2008, recognising the spectacular national parks on both sides of the Nigeria-Cameroon border.  This agreement will enable our national parks such as Gashaka-Gumti and Cross River in Nigeria to work closely with their counterparts in Cameroon to protect the incredible biodiversity we share including chimpanzees, gorillas and elephants, for future generations,” said Tunde Morakinyo,  Executive Director at Africa Nature Investors (ANI) Foundation. 

This agreement ensures a shared responsibility between Nigeria and Cameroon in wildlife conservation

ANI Foundation has been pushing for this transboundary cooperation alongside others, including the Nigeria Programme of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Ministry of Environment, National Park Service and their counterparts in Cameroon.

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

This historic agreement sets an encouraging precedent for tackling regional and continent-wide ecosystem challenges collaboratively

“This isn’t a problem that can be tackled by one country alone,” said Mary Rice, Executive Director of the Environmental Investigation Agency UK. “Wildlife trafficked from Africa to Asia invariably crosses several land borders before being exported, so international cooperation to enforce those borders is essential. This agreement should make that easier, enabling better investigations and more robust criminal justice responses.” 

“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.