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Plastic whale highlights threat to Cameroon's coast

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Artists, fishermen and residents are now fighting back to raise awareness about their environment by creating a 12-metre-long whale made from plastic bottles collected from the beach. AFP

Plastic whale highlights threat to Cameroon's coast

The picturesque coastal resort town of Kribi in southern Cameroon is a popular destination for tourists, but it is also blighted by the scourge of plastic waste.

Artists, fishermen and residents are now fighting back to raise awareness about their environment by creating a 12-metre-long whale made from plastic bottles collected from the beach.

"The sea is our home and we must make it clean," says Eddy Nnanga from the African Marine Mammal Conservation Organization (AMMCO) that led the project to raise awareness about the impact of plastic waste.

"These plastic bottles should not pollute the environment but be put to good use, especially to make artistic works," he added.

Cameroon, a country in central Africa with approximately 27 million inhabitants, produces some six million tonnes of waste every year.

That includes 600,000 tonnes of plastic waste, of which only 20 percent is recycled, with trash washing up in the waters on its Atlantic coastline.

Pollution poses a danger to local marine life including fish and turtles, while whales can die from ingesting plastic.

Around 20 volunteers combed two kilometres of coastline to clear Ngoye beach's fine sand of discarded bottles.

On the beach, a welder assembled iron bars to form the whale's bodywork. Several volunteers and fishermen, having spent five hours scooping up almost 2,000 bottles, joined him to cover the whale with the detritus.

"It's an artistic work to make people, fishermen and communities understand there are whales in Cameroon, in Kribi," explained AMMCO project coordinator Nnanga.

"We must do everything to protect them because they play an important role in the oceans."

Raoul Tuekam, a lecturer at the University of Bamenda in Cameroon's English-speaking northwest, works hard as he grabs a plastic bottle and tosses it into a bag.

Tuekam, who came to Kribi to attend a conference on sea pollution, said plastic waste was causing the fish population in the area to fall.

Fellow volunteer Roflane Nabil, who arrived in Cameroon three months ago to work with AMMCO, drags a bag bulging with plastic bottles behind her.

"I'm Tunisian, but I can protect nature anywhere. If you conserve one area, you conserve the entire planet," she said.

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