Some details of the history (especially the early history) of the Korup area and the national park are given by Oates (1999) and Malleson (2000). Here I summarize the description of these and other authors, focusing primarily on the history of conservation and research in the Korup area.
The Korup forest area was originally created as the Korup Native Administration Forest Reserve, in October 1937, while under British colonial administration, primarily to set aside land for potential timber production (Malleson 2000; MINEF 2003). The Kumba Western Council renamed the reserve as the Korup Forest Reserve (KFR) in 1962 and modified it to encompass an area of over 840 km2 of forest.
This forest area attracted a number of expatriate researchers in the 1970s, drawn to the area, in part, by its high floral and faunal diversity (Malleson 2000). The primatologist Thomas Struhsaker surveyed a portion of southern KFR in March 1970 as part of a search for a location to establish a research site to study red colobus monkeys (Struhsaker 1975). Later that year, Stephen Gartlan, who had been studying primates with Struhsaker in Douala-Edéa reserve in southwest Cameroon, also visited Korup. Although Struhsaker eventually settled on Kibale National Park, Uganda, as a study site, both scientists recognized that the Korup area deserved special attention and recommended to the government of Cameroon that Korup be made a national park. Their proposal was not immediately considered by the Cameroon government.
By 1984, Gartlan had produced the "Korup Regional Management Plan", the main goal of which was to achieve conservation and protection of the Korup forest in conjunction with social and economic development of the people who rely on the forest for its resources (Malleson 2000). KNP itself would act as the core nature area and areas around KNP, the buffer or Support Zone, would benefit from such development projects as the construction of roads and public amenities, agricultural assistance, and tourism. Villages located inside the proposed park would be resettled into the Support Zone (Malleson 2000).
In October 1986, the government of Cameroon finally declared Korup a national park (Malleson 2000). Support for KNP (1,260 km2) and development projects in the surrounding Support Zone (5,353 km2) was provided by the Korup Project, an internationally funded program established in 1987 (Malleson 2001). Funding and support for the Korup Project came from WWF-UK, the British Overseas Development Administration (ODA), now the Department for International Development (DFID), the German technical assistance agency (GTZ), the European Commission (which later became incorporated into the European Union), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Government of Cameroon (Oates 1999; MINEF 2003).
By July 2003, the Korup Project, including the Support Zone component, ended and financial and logistical support from WWF, GTZ, and the European Union markedly reduced or stopped completely (MINEF 2003; Oates et al. 2004). Although the original Korup management plan called for resettlement of all villages located inside KNP, after much debate and conflict between villagers, researchers and KNP managers, only one village, Ikondokondo, was relocated by the end of the Korup Project (Malleson 2000). In 2000, the Korup Project employed a total staff of about 84, including game guards, resettlement officers, technical personnel, administrators, and those who worked for the Support Zone (Oates et al. 2004). At the time of my arrival in early 2004, the staff primarily consisted of game guards in addition to the Conservator of KNP, although the number of game guards had increased from 14 in 2000 to approximately 24 in 2004. Salary for game guards since the end of the Korup Project was to come from the Government of Cameroon, but I observed that payouts were inconsistent and that game guards would sometimes go without pay for up to six months.
By June 2002, a new and revised management plan of KNP was completed (MINEF 2003). This document provided a description and analysis of previous management activities and recommendations for future conservation and development efforts. In addition, the Support Zone was considered too large to provide effective support and the focus of development activities shifted to a Peripheral Zone, a 3 km band surrounding KNP and covering an area of 612 square km.