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Mefou Park Marvels Cameroonian-Americans 

By Nformi Sonde Kinsai

Mefou National Park in the Mefou and Afamba Division of the Centre Region was January 1 the centre of attraction to some Cameroonian-Americans and others tracing their ancestral roots to the continent.

Cameroonian-Americans & MINFOF officials at entrance of Mefou Park

A picnic at the Park, which is host to many baboons, mandrills, chimpanzees and monkeys rescued from poachers and bush meat traders, was organised by the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife, MINFOF, as part of an elaborate programme from December 27, 2010 to January 5, 2011, that took the visitors to Douala, Bimbia, Foumban, Bafoussam, Bandjoun, Bafia, Yaounde and Kribi.

Presenting the Park, the Director of the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund, CWAF, Project, Rachel Hogan, said the charity started in 1997 while the 1044 hectares Mefou National Park was created in 2001 in collaboration with the then Ministry of Environment and Forestry, MINEF. She stated that the rescued primates are brought to the park for rehabilitation and protection.

Informing the Cameroonian-Americans that Cameroon is made up of the coastal, forest and savanna landscapes, Rachel said the country is all of Africa in one. She maintained that because of the rich biodiversity and the need to protect the animals, CWAF is working closely with communities in and around the park. She also talked of the existence of a network working with and dispensing environmental education in schools as part of the conservation efforts.

Taking around one of the four groups on a guided tour, Henry Baiye, Educator and Eco-guard, took the visitors to the enclosures harbouring mandrills, monkeys, chimpanzees and baboons. He noted that the primates primarily have a lifespan of about 25 years while in the wild and up to 28 years when kept in enclosures and catered for.

Baiye disclosed that chimpanzees share 99.4 percent of genes with humans, are omnivores, live in social groups of up to 20, are clever and can recognize their own images in the mirror.
He said those who have worked with chimps for long can understand their mode of communication. He spelt out special characteristics of all other groups of animals visited in the park to the amazement of the Cameroonian-Americans who asked all sorts of questions.

Visitors being welcome by their Cameroonians brothers and sisters at Bimbia

At the end of the trip, the Secretary of State in MINFOF, Joseph Roland Matta, hailed the visitors for tracing their origins back to Africa. Considering the visit to the various enclosures hosting the animals in the park to be more important than speeches, Matta said the Cameroonian-Americans were leaving acquainted with the way the park is run. With the possibility of reconnecting more Cameroonian-Americans to their ancestral roots, he expressed the hope of seeing more of such visits in the nearest future.

The Secretary of State told the press that an important day like the New Year was taken off to "accompany them (Cameroonian-Americans) to also see other aspects of Cameroonian biodiversity. I am happy that they appreciated what we are doing. Many of them have never seen a gorilla, let alone a chimpanzee or monkey alive," Joseph Roland Matta stated.

"They are really marveled by the efforts of MINFOF in regards to the conservation of these species and they have promised to help develop this park the more. I was happy to be with my brothers and sisters who happen to be staying in the USA now," Matta further stated.

In a chat with The Post, Dr. Mohamed Chouikha, Electrical and Computer Engineer of the University of Howard in the USA declared: "the park is very interesting in terms of the type of wildlife that is there. Most importantly, I was very impressed with the fact that Cameroonians are taking care of animals that if that is not done, would disappear from the surface of the earth.

I promised the minister that I will spread information about the park as much as I can and to see how we will help to maintain such a place," he told The Post. He also expressed the wish to work with Cameroonian universities and perhaps get students interested in research at the PhD level to join them.

The Post gathered that of the 54 people that made up the delegation, 39 were Cameroonian-Americans as confirmed and certified by the DNA test. The delegation was headed by initiators of the Ancestry Reconnection Program, Eric Chinje and Avline Ava.

Meanwhile, other officials that accompanied Joseph Roland Matta to the park included MINFOF Secretary General, Denis Koulagna, Technical Advisers No 1 and 2, His Majesty Abdoulaye Machia and Dr. Charles Alobwede as well as the Technical Adviser No. 1 in the Ministry of Communication, Dr. Felix Zogo.

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