A new study by the international environmental group WWF released last week reported that two-thirds of the forests in Africa’s Congo River Basin could disappear within 50 years if logging and mineral exploitation continues unabated. The Congo Basin’s tropical forest covers more than a million square miles in West Africa and is populated by elephants, primates, wild hogs, forest buffalos, dozens of other mammalian wildlife species and millions of rare tropical plants.
"Tropical forest is vanishing at a rate of five percent a decade, wrecking habitats and releasing three billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, which is a fifth of global greenhouse emissions," says Laurent Somé, director of WWF’s Central African regional office. The world’s second-largest tropical forest after the Amazon, the Congo Basin loses some 3.7 million acres a year to farming, logging, road building, oil development and mining, according to the study.
WWF is credited with helping to create more than a dozen national parks and millions of areas of protected areas throughout the Congo Basin in recent years, and was instrumental in convincing the U.S. government to commit $53 million to conservation initiatives there. The group is now working to stem the tide of Congo forest loss by certifying key areas as viable for sustainable logging, including 300,000 acres slated for immediate development, and by raising awareness that ecotourism can pay greater dividends than resource extraction and poaching.