Miroslav Bobek et al., 17 June 2009
The Dja biosphere reserve in the south-eastern Cameroon is guarded by four units of rangers called “ecoguards”. This sixty-strong force is supposed to protect more than half a million hectares of tropical rainforest. With worn-out shoes and no tents or communication technology they confront hordes of armed poachers.
Djoum is more than 250 km from Yaoundé. While the first three-fifths of the distance is a nice drive along a good tarmac road, the rest is a dirt road navigable only for 4×4 trucks, and sometimes not even for them in the rain season. Djoum is the seat of the subprefect, it has a health facility, primary schools and a lyceum, a large market, and most of the area is covered by mobile phone signal. Most importantly for us, though, one of four units of the ecoguards who protect the Dja biosphere reserve is stationed there.
“Everyone eats bushmeat,” ecoguard Tomi told us when we first met. “And almost everyone hunts. We cannot be overly strict with people but rather try to convince them to kill fewer animals and avoid hunting the most strictly protected species.”
Whereas three years ago, we had problems finding and photographing bushmeat in Yaoundé, it was completely different in Djoum this time. We were offered bushmeat for lunch even in the auberge we were staying in.
“Do you have some other kind of meat?” we asked.
“No,” was the answer.
“Can’t you get us chicken or something?”
“Sure, but… chicken is not meat, is it?”
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.rozhlas.cz/img/flash/player/player6.swf?file=00939915.flv" width="500" height="400"/]
Photos from the patrol are available in the article On duty with ecoguards.