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Using camera traps to conserve species in Cameroon

Posted on: 10 November, 2023

A unique partnership involving the use of dozens of camera traps is working to reduce the threats posed to important populations of wildlife species such as Critically Endangered Kordofan giraffe and Vulnerable giant eland, in Cameroon’s Bénoué National Park.

The protected area is increasingly subject to illegal hunting, cattle herding and gold mining, which could lead to the loss of its precious biodiversity. Bristol Zoological Society and Sekakoh have been working with Bénoué National Park’s Conservation Service to establish a new data-driven patrol strategy which will direct eco-guards to poaching hotspots and improve access to patrol teams within the park. Part of this strategy relies on the deployment of 40 camera traps to provide information on the distribution of wildlife species to help direct patrols and provide feedback on how wildlife is responding to the threats. This is supplemented by records of animals which are collected by eco-guards on foot patrols and detected through footprints and dung.

The park’s eco-guards have now been trained and provided with the necessary kit to conduct patrols and use camera traps to monitor wildlife across a vast area of the park, which at 1,800 km2 is similar in size to the English county of Oxfordshire. To improve access, 70 km of road network within the park has been reopened, facilitating movement of patrol teams across the landscape. The first camera trap images showed at least 30 mammal species to be present, including the Near Threatened western hartebeest and African forest buffalo. In addition to this, signs of elephants, lions and giraffe were detected on foot patrols but not through cameras, potentially indicating that only low numbers of these species may now remain.

The data collected through this partnership will be used to produce the first scientifically robust population estimates of the park’s mammal species and provide useful baseline data to track changes in wildlife abundance over time. Dr Sam Penny, who is leading the project, said “as more data is collected, it is hoped that patrols will become more effective, reducing threats within the park and enabling endangered species to flourish.”

The Bristol Zoological Society-managed project is supported by IUCN Save Our Species and co-funded by the European Union International Partnerships. Visitors to Bristol Zoo Project can learn more about this work in Cameroon at its giraffe habitat, where three giraffes live in a recreation of part of Bénoué National Park.