Geography & Wildlife
Varied geography and habitats
A 1,175 year-old treeTree In this video...our chief reporters marvel at a huge tree believed to be 1,175 years old.
The Adamaoua plateau stretches across the centre of the country. Averaging 1,300 metres in height, the plateau effectively separates the north from the south.
Its large grasslands turn into the dry, flat plains of the far north. These dramatic red landscapes are dotted with rocky escarpments and volcanic plugs (vertical pipes of ancient volcanoes filled with solidified lava, which remains after the cone wears away).
To the south of the plateau, much of the country is covered by tropical forest. Watch the Forestry video to learn more about Cameroon's trees and the forestry industry.
Across the low-lying coastal plain, equatorial forest trees can grow as high as 50 metres, forming a tall canopy which shuts out the light. To the west, rolling hills and volcanic mountains, such as Mount Cameroon – see Map – are covered in lush vegetation.
Beaches along the volcanic northern stretch of the coast are a chocolate brown colour, with the sand made up of igneous rock. Because of the volcanic nature of the western region, crater lakes are among Cameroon’s many inland areas of water, including the infamous Lake Nyos – see History & Politics.
Among many rivers are the Sanaga and Nyong running through the southern-central region and the Benoué in the north.
Rainforests are home to more than half the world’s species of animals, birds and insects. Some of the oldest primary forests have been around for more than 60 million years.
The forests of Cameroon therefore contain a rich variety of flora and fauna, including over a thousand species of trees.
The country’s nine national parks and many reserves offer visitors the chance to see a huge range of creatures, from giant millipedes and many species of butterfly, to larger forest dwellers such as gorillas – Gorillas – and the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus), one of the rarest and largest primates in Africa (see photo).
Cameroon also has over 900 species of bird, including many which are exceptionally rare, such as the Mount Kupe bush shrike and the grey-necked rockfowl. The country has been called 'the heaven of birds'.
At one foot long and as heavy as a cat, the goliath frog is the largest frog in the world. Found along rainforest rivers, it is prized as a delicacy for its sweet meat.
Threatened forests and wildlife
Tackling illegal logging
Experts estimate Cameroon loses nearly 1% of its forest every year. In 2012, the government revoked the licences of 27 logging companies which had not complied with laws laid down to prevent unsustainable or illegal harvesting of wood.
Though Cameroon has created large areas of national park to protect key forest areas and introduced a monitoring scheme to tackle illegal logging, the country’s flora and fauna are threatened by commercial activities and hunting.
Restaurants face large fines if they serve meat from endangered animals. But the bushmeat trade continues with hunters and farmers regularly killing animals.
The pressure to utilise Cameroon’s underground natural resources is great, since mining brings economic development. However, once mining roads are constructed, land-grabbers and illegal logging operations have easier access to precious forest areas.