Hunters Workshop in Iko Esai

A blog by NTFP coordinator, Chris Hamley!

Targeting key groups in our partner communities to build trust and convey our conservation message is a key aspect of our work here on the edge of Cross River National Park. Many of our forest protection actions are closely linked with reducing pressure on forest biodiversity and eliminating the illegal hunting of primates and other species at high risk of extinction.

Hunters are a key community stakeholder group who have a disproportionally greater impact on biodiversity than other forest users. It is essential that these individuals have a good understanding of the state of biodiversity in the area, the conservation laws and the potential impacts of bushmeat hunting. Awareness raising has the power to change attitudes to resource use issues and often motivate changes in behaviour that lead to a greater willingness to accept conservation measures. We use it to work tangent with our other activities: protected area patrols, alternative livelihoods and governance strengthening to create a package of measures.

CERCOPAN recently hosted an awareness training programme with the Iko Esai hunters group. We aimed to build a better understanding of 1) CERCOPAN as an NGO and the work it conducts, 2) forest biodiversity and in particular primates, 3) the local conservation by-laws and 4) the Iko Esai Community Forest land use zoning system. Designed and implemented by our Education and Capacity Building Coordinator, Dan Roper-Jones, and Community Liaison Education and Outreach Officer, Mike Ekpe, the training was a considerable success with 27 participants, accompanied by our protected area patrol team and the Iko Esai CCDC surveillance team committee.

Key messages conveyed in the training were designed to overcome some of the local misunderstandings of conservation and demonstrate how no-take-areas can work to provide a “save-zone” where animals are free to reproduce and then replenish adjacent areas. This is the core concept used to build hunter support for the core area we work so hard to protect.

Many remote rural communities in developing nations have different cultural systems that shape the way they perceive nature. One of the central understandings of local people here is that animals can never go extinct and will be perpetually replaced, often expressed in pidgin as “finishing”. The workshop explained how many species have gone extinct in recent history, providing evidence that this can indeed happen.  This was followed by a description of the actions that hunters can take to reduce their impacts, follow conservation law and protect biodiversity for future generations.

The workshop closed in high spirits with an offering from CERCOPAN of a few small bottles of kai-kai (a local alcohol processed from palm wine) and a jerry can of palm wine, following in community traditions. We were even able to snap a great group photo before everyone headed home, enjoy!

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