Central Africa Unites to Protect Congo Basin
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, December 8, 2000 (ENS) - The battle against poaching and illegal logging in the Congo Basin received a significant boost Thursday as three Central African nations agreed to share management of a 28,000 square kilometer stretch of forest.
The Congo Basin is second only in size to the forests of the Amazon and unique because of its diverse eco-systems and wildlife. But these forests are under threat. Four million hectares of African forests are destroyed each year due to growing human population, illegal logging, poaching and conversion of forest land to other uses.
The agreement between Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic is the first of its kind in Central Africa. It will link protected zones of Lobeke national park in Cameroon, the Dzanga-Sangha in the Central African Republic, the Nouabale-Ndoki park in the Republic of Congo and the production forests and hunting zones that surround each of those parks.
The countries are now expected to harmonize their forestry laws and implement a common management system on anti-poaching measures, ecological monitoring and logging.
For the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), it marks the culmination of more than a decade of work.
"A more coherent approach towards logging and anti-poaching will go a long way to guaranteeing the future of these important forests and the wildlife that live within them."
The ministerial meeting included representatives from Chad, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. It gathered to agree on ways to implement the Yaoundé Declaration, a 12-point resolution signed last year by the six Central African heads of state on the conservation and sustainable management of the forests of the Congo Basin.
The six countries agreed to a series of measures, including the creation of a trust fund to implement programs and a coordination and monitoring body to be based in Yaoundé. The signatories have also agreed to protect a minimum of 10 percent of their forests.
Up to 50 percent of the rainforests in the Congo Basin lie in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Illegal logging is causing severe forest degradation and a huge diversity of wildlife, including forest elephants, chimpanzees and gorillas, are greatly hunted for their meat. Many other jungle inhabitants remain threatened and even undiscovered.
Scientists believe these forests could hold the key to future medical advances in the treatment of human ailments. The chimpanzee, for example, recently disclosed as the potential source of the HIV virus in humans and vital to medical research, is severely endangered because of logging and poaching.
Another ministerial meeting in March 2001 has been scheduled to implement decisions taken this week.