Close up of the brown eyes of a gorilla

Guardians of Dja


This programme is working to increase the abundance of rare chimpanzees and gorillas in the Dja Biosphere Reserve (DBR), Cameroon, and to foster coexistence between local people and wildlife.

A wild chimpanzee rolls on its side on a grass floor

A wild chimpanzee ©

LOCATION: Dja Biosphere Reserve, East Region, Cameroon. A two million hectare (4.9m acre) forested area, comprising forestry management units, community forests, and ~40 villages (~50,000 people). The core 526,000 hectare (1.2m acre) Dja Faunal Reserve is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1981).

There is widespread bushmeat hunting for local consumption and sale, poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, and forest overuse and degradation which further threatens chimpanzees and gorillas.

The DBR is home to central chimpanzees (officially Endangered on the IUCN Red List), western lowland gorillas (Critically Endangered), forest elephants (Critically Endangered), three pangolin species (Vulnerable), plus leopards, buffalo, bongo, many primate and ungulate species, reptiles and birds.

It is also home to rural communities of Badjoue and Bantu, classed as ‘poor’ and ‘extreme poor’, whose traditional livelihoods include hunting and slash-and-burn farming. The northeast corner of reserve, where there are 11 villages (~3,000 people), is one of a few key areas recently recognised as warranting extra protection. This is because there is a high great ape abundance and human activity is not as intense as in other places.

Our activities will initially focus in the villages Malen V, Doumo Pierre, Mimpala, Eschou, Madjuh I, and Doumo Mama. Some of our outreach activities will extend to an additional five villages.

A camera trap photo of a gorilla in the forest

A photo taken by one of our camera traps in DBR


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To help community members switch to sustainable business activities to earn reliable income and reduce reliance on natural resources

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To provide school and community outreach to increase awareness and acceptance of wildlife and conservation

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To support anti-poaching activities and to reduce illegal pressures on wildlife

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To work with families and schools to plant trees on abandoned crop fields and plantations to reforest the buffer zone of the reserve

Read more about our vital work to achieve these objectives

A ‘Centre de Formation Agricole’ (Agroforestry Training Centre)

A ‘Centre de Formation Agricole’ (Agroforestry Training Centre)


Via an existing ‘Centre de Formation Agricole’ (CFA) (Agroforestry Training Centre), we will support staff to deliver three-year training courses in sustainable agroforestry (combining agriculture with trees) practices for female and male (12-25 years old) primary school graduates. We will also offer shorter one-year courses to help existing cocoa farmers (25+ years old) build the skills to manage and rehabilitate their farms.

As well as the training, we will provide the equipment and materials for set-up for 15 graduates per year.

This provides young people with an education and, once they graduate, the material and technical support they need to start a livelihood that will reduce pressure on wildlife.


Close up of cocoa beans



As cocoa can take several years to yield, and because it can only be offered to a limited number of graduates per year, we will offer the wider community the opportunity to cultivate pepper (Capsicum annum). This can be cultivated chemical-free, on village fallows to limit deforestation. It also matures within one year, and sells well. We will provide for set up for up to 1,000 people per year.

An alternative short term income-generating activity is tailoring, which several village girls have expressed an interest.

To ensure the long-term sustainability of all these ventures, we will also help villages to establish trade and market routes for produce, via organisational reinforcement (such as co-operatives), and by identifying buyers and providing technical support for group sales.


Three men stand in a line wearing teaching uniforms

Teachers at the ‘gorilla school’ ©APGS


There is a new primary school in the communities, called the Ecole Jean-Michel Vichard primary school (EJMV), or ‘gorilla school’, which takes 100 pupils per year (five to 14 years). We will provide materials for environmental parts of the curriculum and deliver bespoke sessions in the forest, including botany and practical sessions.

We will work with the teachers to set up a points system for environmentally aware/active students, with the annual opportunity to ‘win’ a trek into the reserve.



Three men and two women stand together in traditional patterned clothes

Members of the local community © APGS


As well as educating through the gorilla school, we will also hold regular events and sessions within the community. Events for youth will include movies, shows, competitions, football, and debates. Events for adults will include films, evening talks, and opportunities for basic education courses (eg literacy, bookkeeping, etc). Via this community outreach, we can expand into more neighbouring villages and can reach up to 3,000 rural people.

We will work with the main sponsors of the gorilla school and the Agroforestry Training Centre to seek sponsorship of a partner to support both schools’ sustainability plans.


A brown river with a log running across it and green forest in the background

The Mpou river ©APGS


To encourage and empower local people to embrace the alternatives and support we will be offering and to commit to reducing their pressures on natural resources, and adhering to wildlife laws, we will encourage individuals to sign up to ‘Reciprocal Environmental Agreements’ (we expect about 40 REAs signed per year).

This will also encourage and improve links between villages and the newly appointed ‘Chef d’Antenne’ in Somalomo, for information transfer.



Unidentified cooked bushmeat in the foreground, and people cooking in the background

The cooking of bushmeat


While the above actions will help many people in the community to change their ways of life and improve their prospects, such voluntary support is never taken up by all.

To protect great apes and other wildlife, we intend to provide support for two (or more) anti-poaching patrols per year across the landscape (including gun amnesties; bushmeat confiscation, etc) in collaboration with the Services of Conservation of the DBR.


A group of men and women in grey Born Free t-shirts

Great Ape Guardians © APGS


Playing another key role in the enforcement of wildlife law, we will recruit, sensitise, and equip 10 male and female ‘Great Ape Guardians’. These will be local people who can patrol, gather information, sensitise others, and act as a facilitator between Born Free and the communities.

Via the Guardians, we can equip and support an informer network, to work together with the local authorities, for rapid information exchange on poaching events.



Tall trees in a rainforest

The Dja rainforest


We will engage local farmers via two workshops per year, to help us identify and acquire 60 hectares of abandoned fields and plantations per year.

Together with farming families and school groups, we will set up seven nurseries over the course of three years, to produce enough seedlings of native and food crop trees to reforest this land to improve habitat integrity and connectivity, and to pro-actively respond to the challenges of climate change.

Close up of a chimpanzee in a tree looking at the camera

Protect Chimpanzees & Gorillas

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