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.
Deforestation taking toll on nesting birds in Cameroon
(12/17/2014) The tropical montane forests of the Cameroon mountain ranges boast fertile volcanic soils, high biodiversity of grasses and non-woody plants, as well as many endemic bird species that can be found only in this high-altitude region. Yet, many of these endemic bird species may be at risk due to increased nest predation linked with human-induced forest degradation, according to a new study.
World's rarest gorilla gets a new protected home
(10/28/2014) The Cross River Gorilla, the rarest and most threatened of gorilla subspecies, has reason to cheer. Last month, on September 29, the Prime Minister of Cameroon, Philemon Yang, signed a decree to officially create a new protected area â€“ Tofala Wildlife Sanctuary â€“ in the southwestern part of the country.
Scientists use genes, feces to study disappearing monkeys
(09/24/2014) Human pressures through tree clearing and poaching are reducing both forest and fauna in West Africa. In response to dwindling primate populations, scientists used genetics techniques to examine their makeup and outlook â€“ demonstrating the usefulness of such methods in the study of animals that are becoming ever-fewer in number and ever-harder to find.
How do we save the world's vanishing old-growth forests?
(08/26/2014) There's nothing in the world like a primary forest, which has never been industrially logged or cleared by humans. They are often described as cathedral-like, due to pillar-like trees and carpet-like undergrowth. Yet, the world's primary forests—also known as old-growth forests—are falling every year, and policy-makers are not doing enough to stop it.
Looming mining â€˜tsunamiâ€™ set to take Africa by storm
(08/20/2014) Africa remains something of an untapped mineral resource, as the vast majority of extraction occurs elsewhere. However, a new report documents a surging tide of foreign interest in mining in Africa and cautions that the sectorâ€™s unchecked development and expansion could devastate the environment.
Invasion of the oil palm: western Africa's native son returns, threatening great apes
(07/28/2014) As palm oil producers increasingly look to Africaâ€™s tropical forests as suitable candidates for their next plantations, primate scientists are sounding the alarm about the destruction of ape habitat that can go hand in hand with oil palm expansion. A recent study sought to take those warnings a step further by quantifying the overlap in suitable oil palm land with current ape habitat.
Surrounded by deforestation, critically endangered gorillas hang on by a thread
(07/17/2014) The mountain forests at the Nigeria-Cameroon border are home to one of the rarest and most threatened subspecies of African apes â€“ the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli). Today, fewer than 300 individuals survive in the wild. These occur in 14 small, fragmented populations spread over a 12,000-square kilometer (4,633-square mile) landscape, characterized by rugged, hilly terrain and a matrix of farmlands, villages, and forests.
Discarded cell phones to help fight rainforest poachers, loggers in real-time
(06/24/2014) A technology that uses discarded mobile phones to create a real-time alert system against logging and poaching will soon be deployed in the endangered rainforests of Central Africa. Rainforest Connection (RFCx), a San Francisco-based non-profit startup, is partnering with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to install its real-time anti-deforestation technology at sites in Cameroon. 30 RFCx devices — recycled from old Android handsets — will monitor 10,000 hectares or nearly 40 square miles of rainforest, listening for audio signals associated with logging and poaching.
Greenpeace accuses controversial palm oil company and Cameroon government of illegal logging
(05/28/2014) Greenpeace has just accused one of the world's most controversial oil palm companies, Herakles Farms, of colluding with top government officials to sell off illegally logged timber to China. According to a new report, an agreement between Cameroon's Minister of Forestry and Herkales Farms—through a shell company—could torpedo the country's agreement with the EU for better timber management.
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.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
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.