Animal Protection in Cameroon
Che Gilbert, the Representative for the International Organization for Animal Protection-Cameroon responded immediately when I contacted him to see if OIPA could help with the rescue of a street puppy in Yaounde. Che traveled from his home in Bamenda, about 6 hours by bus to Yaounde, to check on the puppy and subsequently, he found a willing adopter. Although in the end, the person who originally contacted me about the puppy went a different route, I was so impressed with how quickly Che stepped up to help the puppy. I wanted to learn more about Che and OIPA-Cameroon's work, so I asked Che if he would mind answering some questions. Below are Che's responses.
How did you get involved with OIPA Cameroon?
My love for animals drove me to search for ideas on how to protect animals and look on the internet for people who share these ideas with me. I was doing community sensitization on how we could better the living condition of domestic animals. I started a small group called, Helping Endangered Animals (HEA). it was very small and people where not really interested because most groups in Cameroon deal with orphans and orphanages, human health, and agriculture. You will not find any organization that deals with animal or animal welfare especially domestic and farm animals.
I realized that many dogs are used as hunters to hunt other animals like rat, mole, and grass cutter. After hunting, most of these dogs do not even eat what they labored for. Some end up eating just the bones.
Cats were dying because they are forced to hunt mice because they are not fed, and sometimes these mice are poisoned and when the cat eats it, they also die and the families do not care.
I was very touched and wanted to do something to protect these animals and wanted to speak on their behalf. With all this, I contacted many organizations but they could not help us. When I contacted OIPA International in Italy they told me they had no funds but they really appreciate what am doing for animals. They asked me if I could represent OIPA in Cameroon. My answer was yes.
So I was nominated the international representative of OIPA IN CAMEROON in 2012. Since then, I have been carrying out many activities to improve lives of animals. I applied for authorization from the Cameroonian government in 2013 and on 13 Jan 2017, after a series of investigations on me and my activities, OIPA was granted full authorization to operate in Cameroon [OIPA-Cameroon is authorized by the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization of Cameroon.]
What does OIPA Cameroon do?
We work trying to change and improve the living conditions of the animals through education in schools, informing public opinion, rescuing animals, working to get modifications in the laws, organizing special events and any kinds of gatherings. Some of OIPA’s activities are:
Feed and cater for stray cats and dogs
Create animal protection clubs in school
Treat, spay and neuter stray and some owned animals
Educate pupils and animal owners on animal welfare, care, and protection especially in rural communities
Provide medical assistance and food especially to animals owned by very poor families
Provide home to some stray animals
Train teachers and provide them with teaching guides
When and why did you first become interested in and want to help animals?
I grew up in a family were we had a lot of animals-goats, pigs, dogs etc. At the age of 13 years, it was my responsibility to feed our animals before and after school. Sometimes they are stubborn but I figured out that if I was nice to them, I could get them to behave. In the process, I developed a love for animals to the extent that I felt very bad when any of the animals were sold. It is like they have taken something from me.
In the year 2000, I really felt like doing something for animals especially when I saw how animals were treated in communities and in 2011, I really started sensitizing animal owners in our community on animal welfare. I even brought sweet potatoes from our farm to give to owners to feed their animals.
Do you currently own cats or dogs?
I do not own a cat or dog because I live alone and will not have enough time for them because most of the time I am in the field but when my wife comes to stay, I will have to have one because she loves cats a lot.
In Cameroon, what do you think the main animal welfare issues are?
The main animal welfare issue is lack of education and finance. Most people who own animals live on less that a $ a day especially in rural communities. So they do not have the finances to ensure the health of the animals nor feed them properly.
Do you think that people in Cameroon are interested in and open to the idea of animal welfare and respect for animals? If so, why, and if not, why not?
People in Cameroon at first were not interested in and open to the idea of animal welfare and respect for animals especially domestic animals because there is no law in Cameroon that protects domestic animals.
There has been no effort from the government to educate Cameroonians on animal welfare, care, and protection.
Another reason is the lack of finance. Animals need medical attention and food and with many families, especially in rural communities, who live on less than 2 $ a day, they will not have the means to feed these animals, and getting medication for them would be impossible.
What has been your experience working in communities to help animals, in particular, cats and dogs?
My experience has not been an easy one. First of all, there are no motorable roads leading to these communities. Sometimes, especially during the rainy season, it will take me two days to get to some areas on bike which is also costly as I do not have one. Means of the transportation is difficult.
In the field, these dogs are trained as guards so are not that friendly to get close to and treating them is sometimes impossible. They are not used to being around friendly people.
Medical kits and drugs are a major problem as when we reach communities, we have many cases of sick animals, but often we don't have the means to treat them. Sometimes when we have a critical situation, by the time we have the means, the dog or cat is dead.
Lack of vet personnel is also a very big problem as there are no trained vets to care for animals in rural communities. There are very few volunteer vets and it will cost as much as 70$ for two days that a vet will spend in a rural area with us.
The most difficult challenge for us is lack of finance.
But we have a very good relationship with communities as they wish to have their animals alive and healthy and we have been helping them to do that for the past 6 years.
Is there a particular cat or dog that you rescued that you feel especially good about?-tell us about it.
We have cat called Tammy that I rescued. I met her at the dust bin in a market in a village called Befut. She was very sick and could barely eat. I was told that she always comes there to look for food from the market. When I took her, I rushed her to the vet clinic, where she was given some drugs and vaccines. Two weeks later she was very healthy. She is very loving and humble. Fortunately we found a home for her and she is very happy with her new family.
As far as the other OIPA Cameroon volunteers, broadly, what made them interested in working with OIPA and helping animals?
Most of our volunteers had the idea of protecting animals and had the passion for animals but never had that platform. After we organized our first seminar in 2013 (pictures below), we were very happy to see people interested in protecting animals.
It was during this seminar that we made them understand that the work of animal protection demands a lot of sacrifice, but needs to be made and we will count on them to make animals lives better.
What made them very interested is that OIPA was going to provide them with the necessary skills to realize their dreams in protecting animals in Cameroon especially in rural communities. Our activities were also a key as we had plans to educate pupils on animal welfare, care, and protection.
Do you see animal welfare improving or getting worse in Cameroon in the coming years?
I can see huge improvement on animal welfare in Cameroon in the coming years. All we need to do is continue educating Cameroonians and getting government and all parties involved in this initiative. Many teachers now take 30 minutes three times a week to lecture pupils on animal welfare, care, and protection.
More about OIPA-Cameroon below.
In February, one of our volunteers rescued a female tortoise caught by a locally made trap in the southwest region of Cameroon. She had been trapped for approximately 17 hours before the rescue. As soon she was rescued, we immediately rushed to a veterinary clinic. In the southwest region of Cameroon, tortoises are mostly hunted for meat and for traditional medicine. Their back is used by traditional doctors to treat epilepsy. People come from far and near for these treatments and tortoises are sold for around 10,000 to 40,000 CFA, according to their age and size.
Besides animal protection, OIPA-Cameroon is helping to restore wildlife habitat and improve water quality through the Chomba Community Forest Conservation Project. The project was launched on March 17, 2018. The Project Coordinator for OIPA in Cameroon, Dr. Tening Aaron Suh, said he was optimistic the project would help to address some of the major challenges in forest conservation and stressed the importance of afforestation both for people living around forested areas and for the conservation of biological diversity. In the Bamenda Highlands region, deforestation has rapidly increased over the last decades due to a combination of the growing population, declining economic conditions, decreasing soil fertility, and an increase in the demand for new farmland.
Although OIPA-Cameroon isn't an AKI partner, if you'd like to donate to their very worthy efforts, please designate them for your donation on our website, https://www.animal-kind.org/aki-donate
THANK YOU VERY MUCH!