Lake Ossa Wildlife Reserve - Cameroon

Lake Ossa, Cameroon


The Lake Ossa Reserve is an important refuge for West African manatees and other freshwater biodiversity, yet it is under severe pressure from unsustainable fishing practices, poaching, sand extraction, and clearing of natural vegetation. ZSL are working with the government’s conservation service, local communities and partners to ensure the sustainable management of the reserve. 

Why we are there

Freshwater biodiversity is amongst the most threatened and neglected biodiversity in Africa, yet vital for human communities. At 4,000ha, the Lake Ossa wetlands complex and the neighbouring reaches of the Lower Sanaga River Basin are freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems of regional and global importance. Located on the edge of the proposed Douala-Edea protected landscape the complex provides a refuge for the endangered West African manatee and freshwater turtles, fish species, migratory birds and ranks 7th out of 1,256 catchments that qualify as Key Biodiversity Areas within the Guinean Forest Hotspot based on the number of vulnerable species.

Lake Ossa also provides a range of vital ecosystem services on which people rely. Over 80% of the local population (~600 households) are directly dependent on the lake for their livelihoods, primarily through fishing, whilst the area also provides additional essential services such as clean water, fish and timber to the nearby urban centre of Edéa and beyond.

The reserve is under severe anthropogenic pressure. The proximity of the 11 Lake Ossa communities to the city of Edéa increases the levels of unsustainable levels of exploitation of the complex’s resources, including fish, timber, and sand. Illegal poaching of wildlife is a significant threat to species like the manatee and soft shelled turtle. Whilst unsustainable fishing practices such as small net size, lack of respect for fishing seasons and designated no-take zones and fishing with poison are threats to the diminishing fish resources and other species that depend directly or indirectly on the lake. Land grabbing is also increasingly a problem as neighbouring palm oil plantations encroach into the Reserve.

Key achievements and goals

ZSL in partnership with the Conservation Service and local NGOs has initiated a programme to address the threats to the Lake Ossa Wildlife Reserve, engage stakeholders and ensure the reserve is sustainably managed for future generations. The project has four primary elements:

  • Developing and implementing a Lake Ossa Reserve management plan that delineates the reserve boundary, incorporates community zoning for fishing and eliminates destructive fishing practices.
  • Strengthening the capacity of the Conservation Service to manage and protect the reserve and its wildlife.
  • Engaging local communities in sustainable livelihood initiatives.
  • Engaging the private sector to reduce their negative impacts on the Lake Ossa complex.


Key Species

  • West African Manatee, Vulnerable
  • African soft shelled turtle
  • Freshwater turtles
  • Freshwater fish

People involved

  • Lauren Redmore manages the Lake Ossa Wildlife Reserve project

Partners and Sponsors

  • Ministère des Forêts et de la Faune de la République du Cameroun (MINFOF)
  • Darwin Initiative

Darwin logo