In 1986 the Government of Cameroon established the Korup National Park as Cameroon’s first, and only, national park. Earlier, it had been designated as a forest reserve. It covers a large tract of Africa’s rapidly dwindling rainforest cover. This park is known for the fact that it contains the largest number of species of trees in any rainforest in Africa. The area receives a large amount of rainfall and a relatively low amount of sunshine. These factors, combined with poor accessibility, have allowed the natural rainforests to flourish in the area. The park is also known for containing the plant Ancistrocladus korupensis (Ancistrocladaceae), also found in the adjoining Oban National Park in Nigeria. It was one of the two plants identified by the US National Cancer Institute against HIV that causes AIDS. If the early promise actually translates into real medicinal value, then the plant could provide a source for villagers in the area as well as make a great contribution towards world health.
The Korup National Park is the largest and most famous project undertaken by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The project is actually a joint venture of the Government of Cameroon, ODA, GTZ, EU and WWF-UK. Its purpose is to protect and maintain the park as well as integrating it into regional development plans. The WWF project covers an area of 4,500 square kilometers including the Korup National Park, forest reserves of Nta-Ali, Rumpi Hills, Ejagham and buffer zones for agriculture, watershed protection and hunting. Today, boundaries have been clearly defined, nature trails created, surveillance posts and camp sites built and credible anti-poaching methods have been undertaken. The project also includes sub-programs that combine park development and management with environmental education and training. For centuries, the lives of the people in the Korup area have been related to forests. There are 29 villages in the area, 6 of them inside the park. So the WWF project increases in importance as it tries to provide alternative education and training to the villagers to help reduce poverty and stop them, as well as hunters from all over the country, from shooting down animals indiscriminately. Over the years, this has meant providing facilities for villagers to get training in local technical colleges, employing local people as park guards, providing fertile land outside the park for agriculture, setting up women’s cooperatives, providing training in handicrafts, relocating villagers and helping in the development of the villages. So far, the results have been quite encouraging for the WWF as many villagers have turned in their weapons, which were earlier used to kill endangered species of animals.