In this article, the 'Ebogo 2100' project is outlined. The aim of this project, similar to the 2100 Ghana Butterfly Survey in Bobiri Forest, is to document changes in the butterfly species composition and distribution over the 21st century in Ebogo, Cameroun. The success of the project, started in 2012 by a team of Dutch entomologists, depends on the contribution of other entomologists.
Assessment of the change of species composition or decline of particular species in tropical areas is usually anecdotal, since the exact situation in the past is only known fragmentarily. Complete inventories of particular areas or even complete countries have only been executed in the western world, and it is only here that firm statements can be made about changes in the composition of the fauna over time.
Thus, Torben Larsen, while preparing his book on the West African Butterflies, was happy to find that of at least one country, the former German colony Togoland (present-day Volta Region/Ghana + Togo) the butterfly fauna had been studied in depth by Karsch between 1884 and 1914, offering a checkpoint for comparison with the recent situation. Still Karsch’s inventory was too general, too rough, and Larsen proposed to select a single forest, Bobiri Forest, near Kumasi in central Ghana and to make a complete inventory of the butterflies of this protected forest to serve as a checkpoint for comparison for future conservationists. He called this Project Bobiri 2100. I was one of the lepidopterists involved in the inventory.
A single locality in the whole of West Africa is not much to base conclusions on. When I discussed my plans with Torben Larsen to go to Cameroun and visit Ebogo, he was enthousiastic, Ebogo being known as a very rich place in butterfly species, possibly richer even than the whole of Ghana. Although famous for its richness, a complete inventory has not been made and published so far, and it would be good to have another West African checkpoint for assessment of changes of the butterfly fauna in the future.
Recent activitiesWe (Frans Barten, Auke and Henk Hunneman, and undersigned) visited the place in December 2012 and we were impressed by its abundance of butterfly species, among which we found a number of indicators of good primary rainforest, such as Papilio antimachus, P. zalmoxis, P. hesperus, Charaxes nobilis, C. hadrianus and Euryphurana nobilis.
Based on our experience and Larsen’s support we decided to launch Project Ebogo 2100 as a companion to Project Bobiri 2100, and to focus on this area with the intention to make a complete inventory and to store the results in a safe place for future use. The first trip yielded around 500 species. In June 2013 a second journey was made by Rienk de Jong and Hein Boersma. This time another 100 species were added. The third trip was made in December 2013 by Siep and Jannie and Hein Boersma. We reached 850 species. Our most recent travel was made in January/February 2015. This time Hans Bijl, Wiebe Poppe, Siep and Jannie Sinnema joined Frans Barten and Hein Boersma. We collected in the dry season. This is not the best time to visit the place. Even in the dry season it rains from time to time but not now. It rained the day we left. All specimens have been set and studied. A total of 1067 species is recorded till June 2016! see recent list juli 2016. Even Torben Larsen was surprised at this number. Unfortunately Torben died a few days after I visited him in May this year. We lose a great entomologist and a man who managed to glue us all together. see Torben Larsen. His book on African Hesperiidae is unfortunately unfinished.
Collecting before December 2012 A lot of collecting has taken place in Ebogo over the years. Quite a few studies have appeared. Michel Libert mentiones Ebogo quite often in his studies of Telipna and Pseudaletis. Most recently Thierry Bouyer described Iridana stempfferi (Entomologia Africana 20 (1) 2015) from Ebogo. A local lady told me as a child she used to catch Charaxes on dog droppings and sell them to Europeans. At Insect Fairs in Belgium the number of specimens offered from Ebogo was always enormous. Local collectors try to sell as many specimens as possible and thus try to make a living out of it.
The role of Ebogo in conservation and ecotourism The forests around Ebogo are large.Notwithstanding the fact cutting goes on daily and one can hear the chainsaws every day. Lodges are being erected at the Ebogo Tourist Centre. A cold beer and a simple meal can be ordered. The residential facilities are excellent under the circumstances.Canoe men are willing to take tourists up river where an enormous tree can be admired. Apart from a stroll in the bush there is not much to see or to be done in Ebogo. One could ask whether or not more attractions will be good for the village and if ecotourism is viable without any larger animals to be seen. The number of actual visitors may still be low, but it fulfils its eco-tourism role by giving visitors yet another option during a visit to Cameroun.
Future Plans We plan to continue the inventory of Ebogo butterflies, though most species already recorded, the species accumulation will flatten considerably. After adding another 50-70 species, the going will become even more difficult. However , it is worth continuing to the point where Ebogo has the best inventory of butterflies in Cameroun in order to act as an authoritative baseline for future studies.Volunteers are very welcome! Larsen (2005) found that as yet despite much local extinction effectively no total extinction seems to have taken place among West African forest butterflies. This is despite extensive deforestation. Whether this will be true in the longer term has been questioned.The shrinking size of forests in good condition may include an ”extinction debt” that is yet to be manifested. To this must be added the effect of global warming, which potentially has the capacity to change species composition and overall biodiversity. Thus we are establishing a baseline survey with the necessary data for a comparative survey of Ebogo butterflies to take place around the year 2100, a hundred years since study of Ebogo butterflies began in earnest.
Acknowledgements We are gratefull to the very able ”local collectors”: Ambroise Awoumou, Joseph Atanga, Joseph Onambele, Petit Philip and Marcel Mengue. Mr. Tobi Aba, the director of the Ebogo Tourist Centre. We are indebted to Monsieur and Madame Zacharie and Suzanne Fouda who lodged us most of the time, provided transport and took away so many problems for us. Finally we thank the Uyttenboogaart Eliasen Stichting (UES) for their help and support without which this work could not have been undertaken.
Hein Boersma, June 2015
References Larsen, T.B. 2005 The butterflies of West Africa,2 vols, 596 pp, 125 plates. (Apollo Books, Svendborg, DK.) Larsen, T.B., Kwaku-Aduse-Poku, Boersma Hein, Szabolcs Sáfian & Baker Jon. Bobiri Butterfly Sanctuary in Ghana-Discovering its butteflies (with a checklist of the 930 species of Ghana.) Metamorphosis, September 2007, Vol. 18, No. 3 Libert, Michel. Révision du Genre Pseudaletis. Lambillionea/A.B.R.I.2007. Libert, Michel. Révision du Genre Telipna. Lambillionea/A.B.R.I. 2005 Vandeweghe Gaël R. Papillons du Gabon. Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) 2010 D'Abrera, Bernard, Butterflies of the Afrotropical Region, Part III, Lycaenidae, Riodinidae. Hill House Publishers, (Melbourne/London. 2009.)