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Forests - Congo

Effects of deforestation

If the timber industry expands to such an extent it will be very destructive, not only to the forest’s fragile eco-system but also to the food supplies of many forest animals and the communities that live in them. Already there has been an increase in logging and the bush-meat trade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent years, both during the civil war and after it ended.

Jane Goodall, the world-famous chimpanzee expert, has estimated that over the last hundred years, the number of chimpanzees has fallen from two million to 200,000. She said that not only did the timber companies cause damage in their own right but the access roads they built brought in poachers. Many of the animals killed for the bush-meat trade are endangered species. The Congo forests have a long list of endangered species including chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and other apes, forest elephants and okapi. Once the loggers and poachers had departed an area, it was often found that they had killed most of the animals.

As diggers cleared the ground in their search for coltan ore, gorillas in the Kahuzi Briega National Park in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo had less food, resulting in the gorilla population being halved.

Another impact is on the livelihoods of forest peoples. For example, the Ba’Aka pygmy tribe who live in the rainforests of the Central African Republic now have their traditional areas intersected by logging roads and animals that would have been sources of food are killed by both timber workers and poachers. The forests can only support a small, moving population: the Ba’Aka move every two weeks or so in order to have enough food.

Thousands of elephants continue to be killed in the Central African Republic to supply the illegal ivory trade with their tusks.

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