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US palm oil project would destroy endangered chimpanzee habitat in Cameroon


Amsterdam – The endangered Chimpanzee stands to have swathes of its forest habitat in Cameroon destroyed if a US company’s controversial plans to establish a palm oil plantation in the area are not stopped.

Herakles Farms has previously claimed its project in the South West Region of the country would convert an area of little conservation value. But a new study by Dschang University, in collaboration with the University of Göttingen and supported by Greenpeace International, SAVE Wildlife and WWF Germany has found that claim to be a severe misrepresentation.

The study found the area to be home to not only the chimpanzee, but also the forest elephant, rare primates such as the endangered drill and the critically endangered Preuss’s red colobus monkey, plus a number of fish species, many endemic to the region.

“The US government has invested heavily in recent years in the conservation of the ’elliot’s chimpanzee’,” said Filip Verbelen, forests campaigner with Greenpeace International.

“It is therefore both ironic and tragic that an American company is set to destroy a forest area that is vital for the survival of these chimpanzees.”

Recent field research by Greenpeace in the proposed plantation zone also found evidence of chimpanzee nests. The project zone is bordered by four protected areas including the iconic Korup national park and acts as a vital corridor for animals.

The forested area is located within the Guinean forests of West Africa, an area known as a biodiversity hotspot.

The Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered with scientists estimating as few as 3,500 surviving in the wild. The drill is one of Africa’s most endangered primates and eighty percent of the world’s remaining drill habitat is in a relatively small forested part of Cameroon.

“The results of our survey show that the proposed concession area is of high conservation value, while some parts could even act as a chimp sanctuary,” said Dr Kadiri Serge Bobo of Dschang University, Cameroon. “They also show that prior studies presented by the company were inadequate and failed to confirm the presence of threatened mammal species.”

The Herakles Farms project in the South West region has been beset with controversy since it was first announced in 2009. The plantation has been operating illegally and linked to corrupt practices and many Cameroonian and international groups are calling for the cancellation of the project.

The project has also been developed without the adequate consultation or free prior and informed consent of residents, many of whom oppose the project and risk the loss of their customary land and livelihoods.

To read an abstract of the report click here

Click here for pictures from the proposed Herakles Farms concession area:


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