Originally created in 1934 under British colonial administration as forest reserve with clear production objectivities (i.e. kept for later logging), Takamanda National Park became a National Park by Prime Ministerial Decree N° 2008/2751/PM of 21st November 2008. The park forms part of the trans-boundary protected area with Nigeria’s Cross River National Park, expected to safeguard an estimated 115 gorillas—a third of the Cross River gorilla population—along with other rare species. Takamanda National Park is located in the south west region of Cameroon (between 05º59’-06º21’N and 09º11-09º30’E) sharing part of its border with the Okwango Division of Cross River National Park in Nigeria. It encompasses an area of 676 km² within the Guineo-Congolian forest zone. Topography generally increases in altitude to the north and east of the park reaching an altitude of 1,500 m. There are a few distinct peaks in the lowland areas including the hills around the Obonyi villages (726 m). The drainage of the area generally flows towards the south in two main rivers the Makone and the Magbe.
Within the Takamanda National Park there are three enclaves: the Obonyi enclave with 2 villages (Obonyi I & III), the Kekpani & Onal enclaves each with a village. However, Onal is a settlement on the traditional territory of Matene with settlers exclusively from Kalumo.
Takamanda National Park is home to more than 1000 plant species with about 953 species and 113 families identified so far including many species of high conservation importance. The vegetation of the Takamanda National Park can be classified into five main habitat types; lowland forest, riverine forests, lowland ridge forest, mid-elevation forest, and montane forest and high-altitude grassland.
The Takamanda National Park possesses a rich reptile and amphibian fauna of 75 species in 15 families. This represents about 30% of the known herpetofauna of Cameroon. Four of these are narrow endemic species of which three are chameleons. The dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetrapis) also present in the TNP is classified as Vulnerable.
The area also has an extremely high bird count that comprises 313 species, and considered the second highest in Cameroon. The White-throated Mountain Babbler (Kupeornis gilberti) is endangered; the Grey-necked Picathartes (Picathartes oreas) and the Bannerman’s Weaver (Ploceus bannermani) are vulnerable, while six others the Harlaub’s Duck (Pteronetta hartlaubii), Yellow-casqued Wattled hornbill (Cerattogymna elata), Cameroon Montane Greenbul (Andropadus elata), Crossley’s Ground-thrush (Zoothera crossleyi), Bangwa Forest Warbler (Bradypterus bangwaensis), and White-tailed Warbler (Pliolais lopezi) are near threatened. In terms of the Biome-restricted bird species, TNP hosts 28 of the afro-montane and 139 of the Guineo-Congolian forest restricted species. TNP hosts 16 restricted-range species with 13 confined to the Cameroon-Nigeria mountain chain and three to the Cameroon-Gabon lowland. These avian categories, have led to the classification of the Takamanda National Park as an Important Bird Area (IBA).
The Takamanda National Park is host to 22 large mammal species and includes the critically endangered Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), the endangered Golf of Guinea chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti), the drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus), Preuss’s Guenon (Cercopithecus preussi), forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), the vulnerable red eared guenon (Cercopithecus erythrotis), the red river hog (Potamochoerus porcus porcus), blue duiker (Cephalophus monticola), forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus), yellow backed duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor) and the crown guenon (Cercopithecuss pogonias).
High hunting pressures for bushmeat over the years have reduced populations of all these species to very low levels and sparse distributions means that the biggest challenge facing the Takamanda National Park is to implement management interventions that will permit the recovery of these depleted large mammal populations.
Takamanda National Park is one of only 12 known or so sites in the border area of Nigeria and Cameroon where the Critically Endangered Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) is found. The Cross River gorilla is the most endangered of the 4 sub-species of gorilla with a total population estimated to be between 200 -250 individuals.
The Cross River watershed, which drains the Takamanda region, is comprised of an extensive network of waterways. The Cross River is reported to have more fish species than any other hydrologically comparable West African river basin and presents a rich ichthyofauna. Over 54 fish species, belonging to 22 families, have been recorded from the area and this is one of the highest diversity of fish in West Africa. Four fish species are thought to undergo breeding migrations within Takamanda National Park including Labeo batesii, a species of Clarias and a species of Characidae (possibly Rhabdelestes brevidorsalis).
A total of 67 species of dragonfly in 11 families have been recorded in the Takamanda National Park, out of a total of 182 species recorded for South West Region. In addition, 111 species of butterfly have also been recorded from the area. Interestingly, patterns of Lepidopteran diversity in TNP are strongly linked to vegetation.
Encroachment by farmers is recorded closer to villages in the northern part of TNP, while signs of logging are mostly seen near major rivers in the southern part of the TNP. These rivers are used in floating timber to Nigeria.
Grassland is exclusively confined to the northern part of Takamanda National Park which offers appropriate conditions for livestock grazing. This activity started about thirty years ago and has increase almost tenfold in the last decade with gross negative consequences on the resources especially forest. To date, about 28 graziers homesteads (mostly from Nigeria) exist within 2 – 5 km from park boundaries including 18 within the park and managing a total of about 2500 cattle. Uncontrolled burning to provide dry season pasture and the permanent settlements of grazers has been observed as the most prominent contributing factors to forest conversion.
Indiscriminate hunting is the major threat to the conservation of biodiversity in TNP. Hunting activities are observed to be high around some of the enclave communities found within the park.