Projet Grands Singes (PGS) of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (RZSA)
The Projet Grands Singes (PGS) is an Integrated Conservation and Development Project where the conservation and development objectives are mutually dependent. PGS works in the periphery of the Dja Biospere Reserve in southeast Cameroon and offers a unique approach to the conservation of great apes by bringing revenue to local communities through scientific tourism and through development projects at the community level. The ultimate goal of PGS is the conservation of chimpanzees and gorillas in their natural habitat in non-protected areas (logging concessions, park buffer zones and village forests used for hunting and agriculture), where there are still healthy populations of apes but under extreme threat.
As PGS works in these areas, its conservation work has a large social aspect and all activities and initiatives in the field are executed with the full agreement and participation of the people living, working, surviving or making money within great ape territory. As well as seeking external funding in order to provide development aids to the communities, the main strategy of PGS is the double-edged sword of scientific tourism. PGS' research site is used year-round by a number of national and international students, researchers and volunteers who come to PGS to study great apes and their habitat. What is special about the model of the PGS is that, in addition to the conservation advantage of improving understanding of a species within the scientific and conservation communities, scientific tourism also serves to keep local inhabitants in employment and to reinforce to them the value of living animals and intact forests, which in turn reduces need and desire to hunt locally, where the threatened apes live. Ape populations are awarded a local and hopefully long term respite.
Objectives of PGS:
- Protection of great apes in their natural habitat by sustainable hunting and scientific tourism
- To help stop poaching of protected species
- The development and increased livelihood of rural communities
- To provide alternatives to hunting
- The local management, zoning and sustainable use of the forest and its resources
1. Cultivation of cocoa in rural villages at the Northern Periphery of the Dja Biosphere Reserve in southeast Cameroon - funded by Efico Fund, this project has trained and equipped 101 cocoa farmers in 6 villages bordering the DBR with hybrid variety, bi-annual yield-producing cocoa which is beginning to become very lucrative in the region. Executed in conjunction with the PGS programme of sensitisation, conservation, scientific tourism and participative wildlife management, such investments in an improvement in living conditions of the rural people can help reduce hunting efforts.
2. Set up of Cocoa agroforests at the northern periphery of the Dja Biosphere Reserve: An opportunity to improve livelihoods in cooperation with the local communities to reduce hunting pressure on great apes and other protected animals - funded by Arcus Foundation, this project combines the investment in cocoa farming with local extensive training in agroforestry techniques (to reduce slash and burn farming methods, to improve cocoa plantations, etc) and investment in participative sustainable wildlife management where local communities are helped to form wildlife management committees and anti-poaching committees and to zone and monitor hunting in their community forests. The key to success in wildlife management is the critical involvement (leadership) at the community level.
3. Scientific tourism as a powerful conservation tool in the northern periphery of the Dja Biosphere Reserve - funded by the RZSA, ongoing conservation-applied scientific research in the non-protected forests of the DBR buffer zone (i.e. in community forests and logging concessions) affords great apes (and other studied wildlife and habitats) with a value that could otherwise only be met through the killing and selling of such species. Local people are heavily implicated in research activities, which employ a huge majority of the population and give a direct monetary benefit to the community, providing that elusive direct link between conservation and benefits to the rural people.