Growing human populations and associated impacts such as forest disruption and overexploitation of wildlife resources, are a rapidly growing threat to African tropical wildlife. Protected areas represent an important global conservation strategy for the preservation of biodiversity. However, inadequate funding and governmental support combined with environmental encroachment occurring in the surrounding landscape, are reducing their conservation capacity. There is growing recognition of the need to extend beyond protected areas and evaluate conservation efforts outside protected areas. This study aims to evaluate the impact of environmental and anthropogenic factors on tropical forest mammals and their habitat in six sites, differing in terms of land-use type and level of active management, in the Dja Conservation Complex, southeast Cameroon. Standardized transects were used to assess species abundances and record vegetation characteristics and signs of human activity.
Results show that the study sites differed significantly in anthropogenic activities and mammal abundance. Environmental factors investigated in this study did not influence mammal abundances whereas mammal abundances were influenced by differences in anthropogenic pressures across sites. The results also showed that a lack of effective management in the unprotected sites resulted in lower mammal abundances and that effective management and protection seem to be lacking at forest sites near villages at the northern border of the Dja Biosphere Reserve.
This study also provides evidence that the conservation efforts of Project Grand Singes reduced human activity and positively influenced mammal populations. Hence, we encourage the presence and activities of conservation research as secondary conservation activity to protect mammal populations and benefit local communities at the same time.