The Ebo Forest Research Project (EFRP) exists to promote the conservation of the forest and wildlife of the Ebo forest, Cameroon. We originally visited the Ebo forest in 2002 and established the first of two permanently-manned research stations in the forest in April 2005 with authorization from the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife of the Government of Cameroon. Today we comprise over twenty Cameroonian staff, many of whom come from the Ebo area. All funding of our work comes from grant raising and philanthropy, and our ultimate goal is to become a Cameroonian-run, self-sufficient research and conservation project with long-term, sustainable goals at its core.
The Ebo Forest Research Project is currently managed under the Central Africa Program of the Zoological Society of San Diego’s Institute for Conservation Research.
Our core conservation and research work is funded by the Offield Family Foundation, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Great Ape Conservation Fund, the Arcus Foundation and the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, to whom we are grateful.
Here are the articles that concern the bird life of the Ebo forest:
Whytock and Morgan 2010
Whytock and Morgan 2010
The plants of the Ebo forest are just as fascinating as the wildlife. The EFRP has been working with the staff at the National Herbarium of Cameroon and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK to document the diversity of the forest since 2005. Together, we are compiling a Checklist of the Plants of the Ebo Forest, which will list all the plants recorded from the forest and their IUCN red list status. Specimens of many hundreds of plants have been collected through the efforts of collecting expeditions from staff and volunteers from these institutions, and our active collaboration has already identified several species new to science, including Crateranthus ebo, a tree with spectacular fruits, and Ardisia ebo, a mat-forming shrub. In early 2013 we started a new botanical collaboration with the University of Halle Germany, and the University at Albany (State University of New York), as part of a larger NSF-funded project. Our research will investigate the potential effects of climate change on Sarcophrynium prionogonium – a large-leaved shrub whose stems and fruits are eaten by primates. # CAG In 2012, the EFRP assisted two communities surrounding the Ebo forest to establish ‘Club des Amis des Gorilles’ (‘Gorilla Guardian Clubs’). # Chimpanzees The Ebo forest is home to the most endangered form of chimpanzee – the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti), which may number as few as 3,500 individuals remaining in the wild. Ebo is among the few forests in Cameroon and Nigeria that has been classified as of ‘exceptional priority’ for the conservation of Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzees by the IUCN Primate Specialist Group (Morgan et al. 2011).
The Ebo chimpanzees are also special because they appear to have a unique suite of tool use behaviours. In particular, as well as constructing a ‘toolkit’ for extracting termites from underground termitaria, they use stone and wooden hammers to crack open hard-shelled Coula edulis fruits (Morgan and Abwe 2006). Before we discovered this behaviour, it was though that only chimpanzees living in West Africa, to the west of a large river in Cote d’Ivoire (Pan troglodytes verus) used such tool to crack open fruits to access the nutritionally high value seeds inside these fruits. Our colleagues working with Nigeria-Cameron chimpanzees in Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria (Gashaka Primate Project) have not witnessed this behaviour there, and interesting questions about how such behaviours emerge, spread and perhaps disappear remain to be answered.
The EFRP believes that recent advances in technology have the potential to revolutionise the way that we conduct our research and conservation work in tropical rainforests such as Ebo. We currently have two projects using technology to inform our understanding of wildlife.
The EFRP is collaborating on the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology’s Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee. This involves using 30 Bushnell ‘Trophy Cam’ video cameras within a 30 km² grid surrounding our Njuma Research Station. These video cameras are activated to record when an infra red sensor is triggered by the presence of an animal, with the hope of recording chimpanzee behaviour in the Ebo forest and across many other permanent study sites in Africa, providing a cross-site comparison of chimpanzee culture.
The EFRP is also developing our own technology with the aim of recording life in the Ebo forest on a permanent, 24/7 basis at an affordable cost. This would allow the creation of a huge audio and video data set with a multitude of research possibilities across many fields, and is increasingly possible due to the rapid advances in computer processing power, memory storage and battery life.
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The Ebo forest is home to a very small, and probably transitory, population of forest elephants. Forest elephants are now regarded as a distinct form of elephant, whose population have plummeted across forested Africa over the past decades as a result of hunting pressure (Maisels et al. 2013).
Our surveys of the entire Ebo forest in 2008 and 2012 have provided evidence of only a handful of elephants remaining in the entire Ebo forest, and they are still under significant pressure from hunters.
The Ebo gorillas are a small, isolated population of individuals living only in an area of forest no more than around 25km² in the Ebo forest. The gorillas were first suggested as existing in the Ebo forest in 2000, when ground nests were found (Dowsett and Dowsett-Lemaire 2000). Then, in 2001, another team also found what they though were gorilla nests, and collect shed hairs (Fotso et al. 2002). It was only when our team visited the Ebo forest in 2002 and observed the gorillas for over two hours that we could truly be confident that gorillas still existed in Ebo (Morgan et al. 2003).
So why were we so surprised that gorillas existed in the forest?
Gorillas in central and western African are divided into those to the south of the Sanaga river Cameroon (known as the western lowland gorilla, Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and those few gorillas much further to the north, straddling the international border between Cameroon and Nigeria (The Cross river gorilla, Gorilla gorilla diehli – the most endangered ape in the world). These two forms of gorillas are geographically isolated from each other by a large distance (over 400km) and the Sanaga river, which seems to act as a geographical boundary between many species. The Ebo gorillas live to the north of the Sanaga river, suggesting that they might be Cross river gorillas, BUT they are geographically closer to the range of the western lowland gorillas to the south of the river. The Ebo gorillas might be considered an ‘intermediate form’ between these two currently recognized subspecies, and only a better understanding of the evolutionary relationship between the western gorillas, perhaps through genetic work, will be able to help us to adequately classify the Ebo gorillas.
The IUCN – endorsed conservation action plan for the apes of western equatorial Africa (Tutin et al. 2005) list the Ebo gorillas as a priority for further survey work. More recently, the Ebo gorillas have been co-opted with the Cross River gorilla conservation action plan, which is due to be published in mid 2013. Either way, the Ebo gorillas are uniquely situated and a highly vulnerable population. The EFRP is not trying to ‘track’ or ‘habituate’ the Ebo gorillas to humans – their population is far too small and vulnerable to risk close contact with human beings. Instead, we are working with the three communicates geographically closest to the gorillas to establish ‘Clubs des Amis des Gorilles’ (Gorilla Guardian Clubs).