Forest CoverTotal forest area: 21,245,000 ha % of land area: 45.6%
Primary forest cover: n/a % of land area: n/a % total forest area: n/a
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005Annual change in forest cover: -220,000 ha Annual deforestation rate: -1.0% Change in defor. rate since '90s: 9.8% Total forest loss since 1990: -3,300,000 ha Total forest loss since 1990:-13.4%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests Annual loss of primary forests: n/a Annual deforestation rate: n/a Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a Primary forest loss since 1990:n/a
Forest ClassificationPublic: 100% Private: 0% Other: 0% Use Production: 29.3% Protection: 2.7% Conservation: 48.6% Social services: 1% Multiple purpose: 18.4% None or unknown: n/a
Forest Area BreakdownTotal area: 21,245,000 ha Primary: n/a Modified natural: n/a Semi-natural: n/a Production plantation: n/a Production plantation: n/a
PlantationsPlantations, 2005: n/a % of total forest cover: n/a Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
Carbon storageAbove-ground biomass: 2,679 M t Below-ground biomass: 1,125 M t
Area annually affected byFire: n/a Insects: n/a Diseases: n/a
Number of tree species in IUCN red listNumber of native tree species: 600 Critically endangered: 50 Endangered: 27 Vulnerable: 106
Cameroon once had one of the strongest economies of sub-Sahara Africa, but in the late 1990s the declining price of commodities including oil, coffee, and cocoa, hit the country very hard. The CFA Franc—the currency—was devalued, pushing rural populations to clear additional forest for subsistence crop production while encouraging the government to grant more logging concessions.
In the recovery following the economic crisis caused by the devaluation of the CFA Franc, building and public works projects increased domestic demand for timber products. In 1999 Cameroon banned the export of some endangered hardwoods, though not sapelli and ayous, the country's largest hardwood exports. The move came after several years of heavy logging and the country's failure to successfully implement a policy aimed at reducing raw-log exports and encouraging processed wood exports.
Lacking an effective forest conservation program and suffering from endemic and pervasive corruption—it annually ranks near the top of the list for the world's most corrupt countries—Cameroon has found logging highly damaging to the rainforest environment. According to published reports, foreign loggers—the vast majority of logging companies operating in Cameroon are foreign-owned—have aggressively and unsustainably logged their concessions without much concern over prosecution by corrupt forestry officials.
The trafficking of bushmeat thrives in Cameroon in conjunction with the timber industry. Logging workers supplement their incomes by hunting wildlife and sending meat to urban centers.
Besides logging, deforestation results from fuelwood collection and subsistence farming. Overall, Cameroon lost 13.4 percent of its forest cover or 3.3 million hectares between 1990 and 2005 and deforestation rates have increased by 10 percent since the close of the 1990s. The United Nations doesn't classify any of Cameroon's forest cover as untouched primary forest.
Deforestation is beginning to have a significant environmental impact in parts of the country. In the north, deforestation has been blamed for increasing soil erosion, desertification, and reduced quality of pastureland. Overhunting and overfishing is a problem elsewhere in Cameroon.
Cameroon's moderately repressive government has made life difficult for the country's indigenous forest dwellers, the pygmies. The government refuses to recognize their land rights and prohibits them from living in national parks.
Petroleum is a key export for Cameroon. To date, oil production has had a limited impact on the country's environment. In 2003 a $3.7-billion pipeline running through Cameroon from oil fields in Chad was completed. Its construction resulted in forest clearing and raised environmental concerns. The project was sponsored and owned by Exxon/Mobil (40 percent), Petronas Malaysia (35 percent), and Chevron (25 percent).
Cameroon has the second-largest hydroelectric power potential in Africa after the Congo. There is increasing concern among environmental groups that the country will start to build dams to meet growing energy needs—the country is not energy self-sufficient as of 2006. One currently planned project is the Lom river hydroelectric dam. To pay for the project, the government will borrow $120 million from the World Bank.
Cameroon currently lacks an effective protected-areas system. Eight percent of the country is under some form of protection on paper, but enforcement is weak and timber is illegally harvested from reserves and wildlife is poached. Conserving Cameroon's forests should be a top priority given their high level of biodiversity. The country has some 936 species of birds, 211 mammals, 322 reptiles, 192 amphibians, and 8,260 species of plants. Some of the better known protected areas in Cameroon are Campo Ma’an National Park, Dja Reserve, Lobeké National Park, Waza National Park, and Korup National Park. All have suffered from illegal incursions in recent years.
Controversial palm oil project approved in Cameroon rainforest
(11/26/2013) A controversial palm oil project set in the West African rainforest in Cameroon has won a three-year provisional lease to convert 20,000 hectares of land for plantations. The project, which is run by U.S.-based Herakles Farms, has been heavily opposed by environmental groups who say it will destroy blocks of wildlife-rich forest.
African manatee hanging on in Cameroon
(09/30/2013) In the Lower Basin of the Sanaga River in Cameroon, near Lake Ossa and the Douala-Edea National Parks, manatees swim and float about like round, potato-shaped mermaids. This region is home to the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis), an aquatic mammal facing a decline in population. Classed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, the West African manatee is threatened by excessive kills, habitat loss, and habitat degradation. Given this, and the dearth of information about manatees, a group of Cameroon scientists have taken an ethnobiological approach (i.e. the interaction between people and wildlife) by employing skilled, knowledgable locals to collect data on the manatees.
Controversial oil palm company now accused of illegal logging in Cameroon rainforest
(09/18/2013) Environmental group, Greenpeace, has accused Herakles Farms of illegal logging in Cameroon after the company has already been lambasted by scientists and conservationists for its plan to build a 70,000 hectare palm oil plantation in one of Africa's most biodiverse rainforests. Herakles Farms has been under fire from green groups—both in Cameroon and abroad—for years over its oil palm plantation plans, including facing protests from locals who live in the forest to be cleared.
Endangered chimps and forest elephants found in rainforest to be logged for palm oil
(08/08/2013) A biological survey of forests slated for destruction for a palm oil project in Cameroon has uncovered 23 species of large mammals, including the world's most endangered chimpanzee subspecies, the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes ellioti). The project in question, operated by U.S.-based company Herakles Farms, has come under stiff criticism both locally and abroad for threatening one of Africa's most biologically rich forest lands and arguably undercutting local peoples' access to traditional lands.
Deforestation rate falls in Congo Basin countries
(07/22/2013) Deforestation has fallen in Congo Basin countries over the past decade despite a sharp increase in the rate of forest clearing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to a new study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B as part of a set of 18 papers on the region's tropical forests. The special issue, which was put together by Oxford University's Yadvinder Malhi, covers a range of issues relating to the rainforests of the Congo Basin, including deforestation, the impacts of global change, the history and key characteristics of the region's forests, and resource extraction, among others.
A thousand soldiers sent after marauding elephant poachers [warning: graphic photos]
(03/26/2013) Eight Central African nations have announced they will send a thousand soldiers after poachers responsible for slaughtering 89 elephants, including over 30 pregnant mothers, in Chad earlier this month. The mobilization of soldiers and law enforcement officers could be a sign that Central African countries are beginning to take elephant poaching, which has decimated populations across Africa, more seriously.
What happened to the elephants of Bouba Ndjida? [warning: graphic photos]
(03/07/2013) A new report released by the Wildlife Conservation Society says that poachers have killed a staggering 62 percent of Africa's forest elephants in the last decade. The insatiable demand for elephant ivory hails mainly from China and Thailand, which is ironically hosting this year's CITES (CoP16) meeting. The meeting will continue until March 13 2013. The study is based on a survey of five elephant range states including Cameroon. Cameroon is the home of Bouba Ndjida National Park, where the dizzying massacre of 650 elephants occurred last year.
62% of all Africa's forest elephants killed in 10 years (warning: graphic images)
(03/04/2013) More than 60 percent of Africa's forest elephants have been killed in the past decade due to the ivory trade, reports a new study published in the online journal PLOS ONE. The study warns that the diminutive elephant species — genetically distinct from the better-known savanna elephant — is rapidly heading toward extinction.
Controversial palm oil project concession in Cameroon is 89 percent 'dense natural forest'
(02/21/2013) Satellite mapping and aerial surveys have revealed that a controversial palm oil concession in Cameroon is almost entirely covered by "dense natural forest," according to a new report by Greenpeace. The activist group alleges that the concession, owned by Herakles Farms, is under 89 percent forest cover. The U.S.-based corporation intends to build a 70,000 hectare palm oil plantation in a region surrounded by four protected areas, including Korup National Park, but has faced stiff criticism from numerous environmental groups as well as conflict with locals.
The year in rainforests
(12/31/2012) 2012 was another year of mixed news for the world's tropical forests. This is a look at some of the most significant tropical rainforest-related news stories for 2012. There were many other important stories in 2012 and some were undoubtedly overlooked in this review. If you feel there's something we missed, please feel free to highlight it in the comments section. Also please note that this post focuses only on tropical forests.
Photos reveal destruction of Cameroon rainforest for palm oil
(11/26/2012) Newly released photos by Greenpeace show the dramatic destruction of tropical forest in Cameroon for an oil palm plantation operated by SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), a subsidiary of the U.S. company Herakles Farm. The agriculture company is planning to convert 73,000 hectares to palm oil plantations on the edge of several protected areas, but has faced considerable opposition from environmentalists and some local communities. In addition to the aerial photos, Greenpeace alleges that ongoing forest clearing by Herakles is illegal since the companies 99-year lease has yet to be fully approved by the Cameroonian government.
Rarest gorillas lose half their habitat in 20 years
(10/01/2012) Cross River gorillas and eastern gorillas lost more than half their habitat since the early 1990s due to deforestation, logging, and other human activities, finds a comprehensive new assessment across great apes' range in West and Central Africa.
Palm oil company in Cameroon drops bid for eco-certification of controversial plantation
(09/05/2012) Herakles Farm, a U.S.-based agricultural developer, will no longer seek eco-certification of its 70,000-hectare oil palm plantation in Cameroon, reports the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The move comes amid criticism from environmental groups that Herakles is converting high conservation value rainforest for the plantation.
Gabon torches their ivory stock as poachers attack okapi reserve
(07/02/2012) Last week, the west African nation of Gabon committed over 1,200 ivory tusks and carvings to the fire. The act, which was meant to send a strong signal to illegal wildlife poachers across Africa, came only a few days after militia poachers stormed the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The assailants killed 13 okapis and six people, including two wildlife rangers, in retaliation for a crackdown against poaching and mining in the protected area. Poaching has reached epidemic levels in Africa due to increasing bushmeat consumption and a rise in East Asian demand for black-market ivory and rhino horns.
Alarm rising over food crisis in Sahel region
(06/13/2012) Warnings over a possible famine in Africa's Sahel region are becoming louder and more intense. Abnormal drought, locally high food prices, and regional conflict have ramped up concerns that 18 million people could suffer from malnutrition and starvation as the lean season sets in. UNICEF says it needs $238 million to save over a million children from severe malnourishment in the region, but has to date only raised $93 million.
First camera trap video of world's rarest gorilla includes shocking charge
(05/08/2012) Ever wonder what it would be like to be charged by a male gorilla? A new video (below) released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), gives one a first hand look. Shot in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, the video is the first camera trap footage of the incredibly rare Cross River gorilla subspecies (Gorilla gorilla diehli); listed as Critically Endangered, the subspecies is believed to be down to only 250 individuals.
15 million facing food shortages in Africa's Sahel region
(03/29/2012) The UN announced yesterday that food security in the Sahel region is deteriorating, putting over 15 million people at risk. Ongoing drought combined with conflict, has pushed the region into a crisis. The situation appears eerily similar to last year when Somalia was hit by a devastating famine due to drought and political instability; the famine left an estimated 30,000 children dead.
Scientists say massive palm oil plantation will "cut the heart out" of Cameroon's rainforest
(03/15/2012) Eleven top scientists have slammed a proposed palm oil plantation in a Cameroonian rainforest surrounded by five protected areas. In an open letter, the researchers allege that Herakles Farm, which proposes the 70,000 hectare plantation in southwest Cameroon, has misled the government about the state of the forest to be cleared and has violated rules set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), of which it's a member. The scientists, many of whom are considered leaders in their field, argue that the plantation will destroy rich forests, imperil endangered species, and sow conflict with local people.
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an organization working with Afro-indigenous and Embera communities to protect forests in Colombia's Darien region. Anthrotect is protecting the habitat of mongabay's mascot: the scale-crested pygmy tyrant.
"Rainforest" is used interchangeably with "rain forest" on this site. "Jungle" is generally not used.