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Redeveloping Cameroon’s Waza National Park

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By Mercy Kelani

Boko Haram terrorists scared off tourists from the wildlife reserve.

Cameroonian tourism officials are coming together for revamping of the most significant wildlife reserve in Cameroon, Waza National Park. It has been said that the wildlife reserve has been threatened by terrorism, deforestation and poaching. The park, on the northern border of Cameroon with Chad and Nigeria, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that previously used to attract many thousands of visitors annually. According to officials, Boko Haram terrorists scared off tourists, leaving illegal loggers and poachers to destroy the park.

Waza National Park in Cameroon is regarded as the most diverse wildlife reserve in the country. The national park houses lions, giraffes, antelopes, elephants, and different species of birds. It is a 170,000 hectare park that gained recognition in 1979 as a UNESCO World Heritage biosphere reserve. However, the Cameroonian government asserted that the number of tourists who visit the wildlife reserve reduced drastically from about 4,000 in 2013 to less than 300 in 2022.

Youths resorted to poaching and illegal logging for livelihood.

A tourism officer in Logone and Chari, an administrative unit in charge of Waza National Park, Atsai Tailati, stated that terrorism began to harm tourism in 2013 when a French family of seven who were on vacation in northern Cameroon were abducted at gunpoint. In 2014, Boko Haram terrorists again barged into a Chinese construction camp in Waza, abducting 10 road engineers. Although, after some weeks, the Nigerian Islamist group released the abducted engineers, tourists remained scared off by the attacks.

The major reason for the meeting of Cameroon’s tourism officials in the region is to deliberate and discuss ideas on how to draw the attention of tourists to the park, just like it used to be. Tailati added that the attack by militants on farms and shops has made youths in the region resort to illegal logging and poaching in order to make a living. However, officials affirmed that there has been a reduction in the threats from terrorists due to improved security on both sides of the border.

70 poachers and illegal loggers were arrested this week.

Furthermore, officials said no large-scale attack has been reported in the area since the past one year except for poachers and illegal loggers who continue to wreak havoc on the park. The governor of Cameroon’s Far North Region, Midjiyawa Bakari, said that there was an arrest of about 70 poachers and illegal loggers in Waza National Park this week. According to the governor, those who were arrested on the park were Cameroonians, Nigerians and Chadians.

The arrested fellows used to kill animals in the park and harvest woods for charcoal with the aim of selling the wood and game to neighboring countries like Nigeria and Chad. Bakari added that to ensure maximum protection of the park, the region has created militias to assist ranchers and troops. Also, Philipe Van Damme, the head of the European Union delegation to Cameroon, stated that restoration of the park would not only attract tourists but would generate diverse benefits for the area.

Redevelopment of Waza National Park would reduce poverty.

According to Van Damme, protection of Waza National Park would bring about stability in the environment and climate, creation of job opportunities for unemployed youths and generation of revenue from tourism. Currently, Cameroon and the European Union are deliberating on the requirements for protection, redevelopment and resuscitation of the park that has suffered deforestation, poaching and terrorism. Speaking with five of the EU delegates, Van Damme asserted that successful revival of the park would lead to reduction of poverty and inequality in the region.

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