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Africa’s Rainforests—Can They Be Saved?

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It’s a wonder to think of this beautiful content and how much life and history it contains. While on safari, it’s easy to get a keen sense of how diverse and beautiful Africa is, even in the remotest of regions. It’s also a wonder to think that a crucial part of Africa, if not protected, will be gone forever, along with some of the most amazing species of animals, plants and indigenous tribes.

African rainforests are famous for their gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants and native dwellers like its pygmies. For centuries, only scattered groups of native hunter-gatherers and Bantu-speaking subsistence farmers disturbed the forest realm. Then, in the 19th century, European loggers and plantation owners moved in. Deforestation began then and continues today.

What is deforestation?

Deforestation is the clearing of trees and woodlands. Today, the clearing of trees in the rainforests of Africa is on the increase. In West Africa, rainforests are being cleared at 2% a year, and at over 5% a year in areas of Cote d'Ivoire. In East Africa, rainforests are being cleared in patterns of previously segmented plots of land. Obviously wildlife in these areas is becoming increasingly endangered from the destruction of its habitat, as well as from constant hunting.

Today, the governments of rainforest countries are now torn between the need to protect their endangered rainforests and the need for the money, roads and jobs that foreign logging companies bring in. Growing populations, swollen by war refugees, are razing rainforest to make way for farmland; poachers are picking off chimpanzees and gorillas to sell to the profitable bushmeat trade, and wood from trees is being utilized for cooking.

Is all hope lost?

Are we to say goodbye to one of the earth’s most amazing natural habitats? In 1999, the six countries of the Congo Basin—Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea—pledged to harmonize forestry laws and form a joint watchdog system to track the effects of logging and poaching. One year later, they took the first step toward putting that pledge into action: the creation of the tri-national Sangha Park, a reserve that will cover more than one million hectares of rainforest in Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo.

Why is this so important?

  • Consider these points:
  • The extinction of species—dozens per day.
  • Increasing poverty in already poor populations.
  • Degradation of African ecosystems creating major damage of the food base.
  • Increasing global warming and prolonged droughts in Africa by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide introduced into the air.

There may be some solutions to improve this seemingly hopeless situation. These include regulating the logging industry in Africa and enacting and enforcing laws to protect forests and wildlife preserves. A collective and dedicated effort by anyone and everyone can make a change for the better and perhaps preserve the remaining rainforests in Africa for future generations.

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