The Plants of Kupe, Mwanenguba and the Bakossi Mountains, Cameroon: A Conservation Checklist
Kupe, Mwanenguba and Bakossi Mts lie toward the southern end of the Cameroon Highlands that run from Bioko and Mt Cameroon in the South, northwards to Tchabal Mbabo and then continue eastwards as the Adamaoua area.
This is the third in a series of 'plant conservation checklists'; its predecessors dealt with the plants of Mt Cameroon and of Mt Oku and the Ijim Ridge. In contrast to these, the greater part of our current area, the Bakossi Mts, has been mostly unexplored by botanists. This is despite the fact that, with the adjoining Rumpi Hills, they constitute what is possibly the largest intact pristine block of submontane forest ((800 m-)1900-2000 m alt) in Africa. It is this submontane forest, together with the adjoining lowland forest, that contributes the bulk of the remarkably high number of taxa endemic to this checklist area (82), those threatened with extinction (232), and the overall total (2,412), emphasising the extraordinary biodiversity of the Bakossi tribal area.
The purpose of the project was to survey the forest at different seasons, as exhaustively as was possible within funding constraints. Between 1995-2003, several RBG Kew-National Herbarium of Cameroon (HNC) teams combed the forest, supported by local conservation NGOs and Earthwatch volunteers. Identifications were made at Kew by both HNC and Kew specialists.
The objectives were 1) to build the capacity of the staff involved to execute botanical survey work with a conservation focus; 2) to aid protection of the forest by producing a book to attract publicity and long-term interest; 3) to aid future management of the forest by helping identify conservation priority species and suggesting how their chances of survival might be increased. This information is given in a separate Red Data chapter which includes illustrations for as many of the species involved as could be obtained.
The major output was the book, which has the title of this project. Its launch in Cameroon in 2004/5 received local press and radio coverage. Other outputs have been conservation posters of many of the endemic or endangered plants, and, in the future, repatriation of specimen data held on a Kew-based database. Both the checklist and posters have been widely distributed in the Bakossi area, to Cameroonian NGOs, government bodies and local schools.
After publication of the book, specimens collected on a follow up survey in 2005 took the real number of species for Bakossi to 2,440, passing the previous highest total for a Centre of Plant Diversity in Tropical Africa. The number of strict endemic and Red Data species already exceeded those of any other centre. This fact was publicised in the British National Press later in 2005.
In 2007, Guillaume de Ginestel & Jean-Thomas Renaud, French Connection Films, accompanied a joint RBG Kew/National Herbarium of Cameroon plant collecting expedition to Mwanenguba. The resulting film, 'The Mists of Mwanenguba' has been shown extensively throughout television networks in France, Canada and Cameroon.
Cheek, M., Pollard, B. J., Darbyshire, I., Onana, J.-M. & C. Wild, C. (2004). The Plants of Kupe, Mwanenguba and the Bakossi Mts, Cameroon. A Conservation Checklist. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Pp 508.
Project partners and collaborators
Herbier National Camerounais
Limbe Botanic Garden
University of Yaoundé I
Conservation and Research for Endangered Species
Ministry of the Environment and Forests
BirdLife International Mt Kupe Forest Project
Botanical Museum, Oslo
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Zoological Society of London
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, District of Columbia