Congo Basin Heads of State and Conservation Groups Celebrate 10 Years of Success in Saving World’s Second Largest Rainforest
: African Wildlife
Foundation, Conservation International, Wildlife Conservation Society, World Wildlife
Threats include Bushmeat Hunting, Illegal Logging, and Climate Change
Washington – September 29, 2009 -- Leaders of the Congo Basin
countries and conservation groups are pressing for more attention, funds and
technical support to save the world’s second largest rainforest and
benefit its population during a Congo Basin Forest Forum and Congressional
The leaders, including heads of state and ministers for natural
resources, also agree that the 46 billion metric tons of carbon stored in the
forests should be recognized as a valuable asset during global climate change
talks in Copenhagen this December.
The Forum and Congressional Hearing are aimed at celebrating 10 years
since the historic Yaounde Summit, which first brought together heads of state
from the countries that share the Congo
rainforests. Since that time, millions of acres of new protected areas have
been created, new initiatives on bushmeat and anti-poaching are in place, and
sustainable forestry is beginning to take root.
A brief overview of accomplishments include:
- 34 protected areas, 61
community-based natural resource management areas, and 34 extractive resource
zones have been zoned for conservation management, covering 126 million acres
(51 million hectares) or more than a third of the Congo Basin forests.
- More than 11.5 million
acres of forest have been
certified as sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
- More than 5,000 local men and
women have been trained in conservation, land use planning and related
- Although logging and
forest degradation remain serious problems, the overall rate of deforestation
in the Congo Basin is estimated to be a relatively low 0.17 percent -- a third of that
of Brazil and a 10th of that of Indonesia.
- Studies of landscapes
and wildlife have improved conservation planning, exemplified by a census
indicating the existence of 125,000 previously unknown western lowland gorillas
in Northern Congo.
- Indicators for the survival of
some endangered species are also improving. Despite years of conflict and
poaching, the population of mountain gorillas in Virunga, between the
Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, is up 17percent over a previous
census taken 20 years ago.
“Since 2002, the Congo Basin Forest Partnership has been
instrumental to the creation of protected areas and national park networks, and
in prioritizing natural resource management in the region. In fact, throughout
the Congo Basin we have seen
‘conservation’ become a household word,” said Michael Fay,
Conservationist and Senior Explorer for the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“The investments have paid off handsomely and CBFP can serve as a model
to be replicated in other major biomes around the world.”
While they are celebrating success, participants in the Forum are aware
of the vast challenges facing the Congo Basin.
“The conservation successes of the past 10 years are impressive,
but they are tempered by the ongoing challenges of the bushmeat crisis, illegal
logging and mining, and climate change,” said Dr. Richard Carroll, Vice
President of World Wildlife Fund’s Africa
and Madagascar Programs.
Climate change discussions at the Forum highlight the urgent need to
assess the impacts of climate change on the Congo Basin, begin devising
adaptive strategies to cope with those impacts and recognize the importance of
reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
The Congo Basin is an enormous carbon storehouse, sequestering an
estimated 46 billion metric tons of carbon—more than any other forest
except the Amazon. However, since its rates of deforestation are
relatively low, the countries of the region fear they may be excluded from
climate agreements decided in Copenhagen
this December that address deforestation and degradation.
colossal quantities of carbon captured and stored in the forests of the Congo
basin are massively significant in global efforts to tackle climate change. The
Congo Basin Forest Partnership has shown that forest management can bring
increased stability and prosperity to the people of the region,” said Dr
Frank Hawkins, head of Conservation International's Africa Program. “We
must ensure that the Copenhagen
climate talks in December provide financial incentives for these nations to
keep their forests standing or we will all suffer the consequences."
"Reducing deforestation in the Congo Basin
not only provides opportunities for conserving biodiversity while contributing
to people's livelihoods, but also mitigates global climate change," said
Dr. Patrick Bergin, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation.
Other issues discussed at the Forum include resource extraction and the
bushmeat trade. Building of roads for industrial extraction of minerals and
trees are linked to increases in the bushmeat trade, as these roads provide a
conduit to wildlife resources otherwise difficult to access. The bushmeat trade
accounts for the majority of wildlife losses in the region, which negatively
impacts forest health as key species such as such as apes, monkeys and
elephants play key roles in the regeneration of the forest.
John Butler, African Wildlife Foundation, 202-939-3313, JButler@awf.org
Scott Smith, Wildlife Conservation Society, 718-220-3698; email@example.com
Rob McNeil, Conservation International, 571-232-0455: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lee Poston, World Wildlife Fund, 202-299-6442; email@example.com