Deforestation in the Congo Rainforest
The Congo Rainforest is one of the world's most threatened ecosystems. Commercial logging, clearing for subsistence agriculture, and widespread civil strife has devastated forests, displaced forest dwellers, and resulted in the expansion of the "bushmeat" trade. Since the 1980s, Africa has had the highest deforestation rates of any region on the globe.
Logging in the Congo Basin has increased significantly as peace has returned to the region. In 2004, encouraged by the World Bank, Congo announced its plans to step up the commercial logging of its rainforest. The timber industry is a major employer in Congo countries and thousands of workers rely on logging companies for basic healthcare and other services. Illegal logging is a significant problem as underpaid bureaucrats look to supplement their incomes by opening restricted areas to cutting.
Since the end of the war in Congo DR, concessions have been granted and the pace of logging in Africa's largest remaining rain forest is picking up
Most of the deforestation in the Congo is caused by local subsistence activities by poor farmers and villagers who rely on forest lands for agriculture and fuelwood collection. Slash-and-burn is commonly used for clearing forest.
Typically, poor farmers and colonists gains access to forest lands by following logging roads, although in the past few years civil strife has driven many Central Africans deep into the rainforest to escape the widespread violence.
Central Africa has been plagued with violence since the mid-90s. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have moved through the forests of the Congo, stripping vegetation and devastating wildlife populations. National parks like Virunga -- home to the endangered mountain gorilla -- were looted and park staffers slaughtered. Refugee camps bordering parks added to the pressure on parklands.
The Congo Basin has some of the world richest mineral deposits. Mining operations are poorly monitored and virtually no consideration is given to short-term health efects -- much less to the environmental impact.
The Bushmeat Trade
Today the visitor to many Central African cities can purchase the meat of virtually any forest animal. Demand for bushmeat is driven by the desire for protein, not necessarily the animal source of the protein, the demand for which varies from market to market. In Gabon, McRae reports that annual per capita consumption of bushmeat may reach eight pounds annually.
The availability of bushmeat is made possible by the logging industry whose road construction opens rainforest to hunters and settlers. Hunters make a living by selling bushmeat to passing loggers, traders, and local villagers. The majority of bushmeat is brought to city markets by loggers.
Regional bushmeat hunting is expected is increase as commercial logging expands in the Congo Basin.
Table of Contents
Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [citation]
Gabon steps in to help protect elephants from ivory poaching at Central African Republic site
Gabon has agreed to help battle poaching in protected areas in the Central African Republic following an elephant massacre at a renowned World Heritage site, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
Elephants massacred for ivory in Central African Republic
Dozens of elephants have been slaughtered in the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic just days after conservationists warned about an impending threat from the movement of 17 heavily armed poachers. The massacre occurred at a site renowned as 'village of elephants', where tourists and scientists have for decades observed wild elephants congregating at a large clearing to feed on minerals.
17 poachers allegedly enter elephant stronghold in Congo, conservationists fear massacre
Local researchers and wildlife guards say 17 armed elephant poachers have gained access to Dzanga Bai, a large waterhole and clearing where up to 200 forest elephants visit daily in the Central African Republic (CAR)'s Dzanga-Ndoki National Park. WWF, which works in the region but has recently evacuated due to rising violence, is calling on the CAR government to rapidly mobilize its military to stop another elephant bloodbath in central Africa. Elephants are being killed across their range for their ivory, which is mostly smuggled to East Asia.
Conservation policies that boost farm yields may ultimately undermine forest protection, argues study
Rising agricultural profitability due to higher prices, improved crop productivity, and forest conservation itself could make it increasingly difficult for conservation programs tied to payments for ecosystem services to succeed, warns a study published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Beautiful striped bat is the "find of a lifetime" (photos)
Scientists have uncovered a rare, brilliantly-striped bat in South Sudan that has yielded new secrets after close study. Working in Bangangai Game Reserve during July of last year, biologist DeeAnn Redeer and conservationist Adrian Garsdie with Fauna & Flora International (FFI) came across an unmissable bat, which has been dubbed by various media outlets as the "badger bat" and the "panda bat."
An insidious threat to tropical forests: over-hunting endangers tree species in Asia and Africa
A fruit falls to the floor in a rainforest. It waits. And waits. Inside the fruit is a seed, and like most seeds in tropical forests, this one needs an animal—a good-sized animal—to move it to a new place where it can germinate and grow. But it may be waiting in vain. Hunting and poaching has decimated many mammal and bird populations across the tropics, and according to two new studies the loss of these important seed-disperser are imperiling the very nature of rainforests.
Infamous elephant poacher turns cannibal in the Congo
Early on a Sunday morning last summer, the villagers of Epulu awoke to the sounds of shots and screaming. In the eastern reaches of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that can often mean another round of violence and ethnic murder is under way. In this case, however, something even more horrific was afoot.
Forging zoos into global conservation centers, an interview with Cristian Samper, head of WCS
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is one of the world's leading environmental organizations. Founded in 1895 (originally as the New York Zoological Society), the WCS manages 200 million acres of wild places around the globe, with over 500 field conservation projects in 65 countries, and 200 scientists on staff. The WCS also runs five facilities in New York City: the Central Park Zoo, the New York Aquarium, Prospect Park and Queens Zoos, and the world renowned Bronx Zoo.
Seeing the forest through the elephants: slaughtered elephants taking rainforest trees with them
Elephants are vanishing. The booming illegal ivory trade is decimating the world's largest land animal, but no place has been harder hit than the Congo basin and its forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis). The numbers are staggering: a single park in Gabon, Minkebe National Park, has seen 11,100 forest elephants killed in the last eight years; Okapi Faunal Reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has lost 75 percent of its elephants in fifteen years; and a new study in PLoS ONE estimates that in total 60 percent of the world's forest elephants have been killed in the last decade alone. But what does that mean for the Congo forest?
62% of all Africa's forest elephants killed in 10 years (warning: graphic images)
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.
New illegal logging ban in EU could sever all ties with companies working in DRC
Yesterday, the EU joined the U.S. and Australia in banning all timber that was illegally harvested abroad. The new regulation could have a major impact on where the EU sources its timber, and no where more so than the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). According to a new report by Greenpeace, the DRC's current moratorium on industrial logging is being systematically circumvented making all timber from the country suspect.
Elephant massacre in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
A key Congo wildlife reserve has lost 75 percent of its elephants in just 15 years due to poaching to meet Asian demand for ivory, reports a new survey by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Democratic Republic of Congo authorities.
Warlords, sorcery, and wildlife: an environmental artist ventures into the Congo
Last year, Roger Peet, an American artist, traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to visit one of the world's most remote and wild forests. Peet spent three months in a region that is largely unknown to the outside world, but where a group of conservationists, headed by Terese and John Hart, are working diligently to create a new national park, known as Lomami. Here, the printmaker met a local warlord, discovered a downed plane, and designed a tomb for a wildlife ranger killed by disease, in addition to seeing some of the region's astounding wildlife. Notably, the burgeoning Lomami National Park is home to the world's newest monkey species, only announced by scientists last September.
Activists warn of industrial palm oil expansion in Congo rainforest
Industrial oil palm plantations are spreading from Malaysia and Indonesia to the Congo raising fears about deforestation and social conflict. A new report by The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK), dramatically entitled The Seeds of Destruction, announces that new palm oil plantations in the Congo rainforest will soon increase fivefold to half a million hectares, an area nearly the size of Delaware. But conservationists warn that by ignoring the lessons of palm oil in Southeast Asia, this trend could be disastrous for the region's forests, wildlife, and people.
Controversial palm oil project concession in Cameroon is 89 percent 'dense natural forest'
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.
Over 11,000 elephants killed by poachers in a single park [warning: graphic photo]
Surveys in Gabon's Minkebe National Park have revealed rare and hard data on the scale of the illegal ivory trade over the last eight years: 11,100 forest elephants have been slaughtered for their tusks in this remote protected area since 2004. In all, poachers have cut down the park's elephant population by two-thirds, decimating what was once believed to be the largest forest elephant population in the world.
Gorilla paradise: new park safeguards 15,000 western lowland gorillas
In 2008 the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced a jaw-dropping discovery: remote swamp forests in northern Republic of Congo contained a stunning population of 125,000 western lowland gorillas that had somehow gone unnoticed by scientists. At the time the President of WCS, Steven E. Sanderson, called the area the "mother lode of gorillas," and expressed hope that the discovery would lead to a new park. Well, late last year, a park was finalized.
The year in rainforests
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.
DR Congo gets first validated and verified REDD+ project
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has its first Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) project validated and verified under the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS).
Congo ranger ambushed and killed defending wildlife
Atamato Madrandele, Chief Warden of Upemba National Park, was ambushed and killed December 16, 2012 by Mai Mai militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reports the Upemba Conservation Project.