Just 20 years ago, monkeys on Bioko Island were thriving…
…They were widespread over the island and had even enjoyed a resurgence during the years following Equatorial Guinea’s independence from Spain in 1968.
In the 1980s, however, a commercial bushmeat market sprung up in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea's capital city on the north end of the island, where residents could buy monkeys, duikers, sea turtles, monitor lizards and other large animals to serve as delicacies. The market expanded during the 1990’s, fueling increased hunting that soon eliminated most large forest animals from surrounding areas.
In the mid-1990's, the development of offshore oil fields brought newfound prosperity to Malabo, allowing more residents to pay the higher prices for bushmeat, a luxury meat priced by its scarcity above other protein sources such as fish and beef. As the easily accessible lowland areas emptied of wildlife, hunters ventured into Pico Basile National Park on the northern end of the island. That area too became nearly devoid of large animals. Hunters were aided by improved transportation with the better roads and many more vehicles traveling from Luba, Riaba and Pico Basile to Malabo.
Today, the remote southern slopes of the Gran Caldera and Southern Highlands Scientific Reserve are a last refuge for Bioko's large wildlife. The primate populations in the Reserve are among the densest in the world, with an average encounter rate of roughly 2 monkey groups/km. Bioko's southern beaches, also in the Reserve, are one of the major nesting grounds for marine turtles. Some of the Reserve's valleys remain unexplored, possibly harboring as-yet-unnamed plants, insects, spiders, and amphibians. Many of the same species that are approaching extinction on the mainland are still abundant on Bioko.
BBPP conducts the following conservation activities:
- Patrol Teams: To deter hunting, we contract seven teams of local people to serve as forest and beach patrol teams stationed at critical points around the reserve. These workers walk established trails to monitor and compare wildlife populations. Some teams are outfitted with GPS tracking devices. We have posted "No Hunting" signs at most entry points to the reserve.
- Bushmeat Market Analysis: We conduct an ongoing analysis of the Malabo bushmeat market, cataloguing which animals pass through the market, how much they sell for, where they came from on the island and other information. We have done interviews with hunters and buyers to gauge attitudes toward bushmeat and we have sponsored awareness campaigns to stem demand for bushmeat.
- Annual Caldera Expedition: We run an annual expedition to the most remote part of the island, the Gran Caldera Volcanica de Luba, to conduct a three-week census of diurnal primates. The results of this census, which we have done every year since 1996, provide information on the health of monkey populations.
- Ecotourism and Study Abroad: BBPP is working to establish Bioko as a center for biodiversity tourism, part of an effort to show that wildlife is more valuable alive than dead and that it can attract tourists eager to fuel local economies.
- Awareness Campaigns: BBPP has held environmental awareness meetings in the villages of Baney, Batoicopa, Riaba and Luba.
See our Wildlife Status page for more on how wildlife is fairing in the face of increased bushmeat hunting.