Saving What Remains


Overharvesting: the Wotango Tree

Poor farmers must be encouraged not to overharvest "sustainable" products from the rainforest, which can be highly damaging to the forest system. For example, in the West African country of Gabon, harvesting of the African cherry, red stinkwood, or "Wotango" tree has exceeded sustainable levels. An extract from the bark of this tree is widely demanded in Europe for treating enlarged prostate glands. Unfortunately chemical compounds produced by the tree are so complex that they can not be synthesized in the lab and the only source for the compound is the tree bark itself.

Before 1985 the Wotango tree was not especially threatened by over-exploitation because a French pharmaceutical company had a monopoly on the extract and harvested the tree in a renewable manner. In 1985, the government ended the monopoly and granted harvesting licenses to local business. Now collecting is out of control, even though it is illegal in many areas, because the bark provides a much needed source of income for villagers.

The company that processes the bark foresees the extinction of natural stocks and has begun growing seedlings which it distributes to those locals interested in starting their own plantations. Hopefully, this sort of small agroforestry will catch on in areas where useful species are threatened by over-harvesting. It may be too late for the Wotango tree of Cameroon.



Solutions Introduction
Sustainable Forest Products
Large-scale Forest Products
Medicinal Drugs
Logging (con't)
Conservation Priorities
Reserve Size & Valuation
Intergovernmental Institutions
Communication, Education
Indigenous people
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References (1)
References (3)
References (5)

Sustainable Dev - Agriculture
Foods & Genetic Diversity
Medicinal Drugs & Pesticides
Logging (con't)
Increasing Productivity
Types of Reserves
Developing nations
International Organizations
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References (2)
References (4)
References (6)


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Copyright Rhett Butler 1994-2005