NO to logging in Cameroon’s Ebo Forest!

Red-eared guenon (Cercopithecus erythrotis) in Cameroon A red-eared guenon in Ebo Forest, Cameroon (© Robbie Whytock, San Diego Zoo Global)

Cameroon’s Ebo rainforest harbors breathtaking biodiversity, including a possible new subspecies of gorilla. Plans to protect it as a national park have been in the works for years. But now, the government is opening 150,000 hectares of the forest – an area the size of Greater London – to logging.

News and updates Call to action

To: the President of the Republic of Cameroon, Paul Biya

“Cameroon’s Ebo rainforest is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It must not be sacrificed to the logging industry.”

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In 2002, primatologist Bethan Morgan made a breathtaking discovery: she was the first scientist to observe gorillas in Ebo Forest. As these great apes live more than 200 kilometers away from other known gorillas, they could represent a subspecies new to science.

The forest is full of marvels: Its population of around 700 chimpanzees appears to be the only one in the world that has mastered both cracking nuts using stones and wooden hammers, as well as fishing for termites using long sticks. In other regions, chimpanzees use only one or the other of these techniques.

Over 40 communities in the region have been living in harmony within and around the forest for generations. They use their customary land for hunting and harvesting of non-timber forest products like food and medicinal plants. The forest has ancestral and spiritual significance as a site for traditional rituals, and contains the gravesites of revered community elders.

But today, both the forest and the livelihoods of the local communities are in danger. 

The government has gazetted 150,000 hectares of Ebo Forest – an area the size of Greater London – as logging concessions. The local people were not consulted or even informed, and their rights to their ancestral land were ignored.

If the government pushes its plan through, the logging would cause immense social injustice and impact the climate and regional ecosystems. Logging opens the door for the wholesale destruction of the environment as poachers, settlers and land grabbers pour into the newly-accessible areas. Huge shares of the 35 million tons of carbon stored in the forest could be released, worsening the climate emergency.

Local people, the scientific community and conservationists are fighting to protect Ebo Forest and its inhabitants. Please support them with your signature.

Back­ground

Notable animal species of Ebo Forest on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

Gorilla – Gorilla gorilla – critically endangered

The gorillas of Ebo Forest may be their own subspecies. They live more than 200 kilometers from the nearest populations of western lowland gorillas and Cross River gorillas.

Preuss’s red colobus – Piliocolobus preussi – critically endangered

One of the last two populations of this species lives in Ebo Forest.

Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee – Pan troglodytes ellioti – endangered

Ebo Forest is home to the only known chimpanzee population that both cracks nuts with stones and catches termites with sticks. In other regions, the primates have only mastered one of the two techniques.

Drill – Mandrillus leucophaeus – endangered

African forest elephant – Loxodonta africana cyclotis – endangered

African gray parrot – Psittacus erithacus – endangered

Goliath frog – Conraua goliath – endangered

More than 160 species of birds live in Ebo Forest, many of which are endemic. This is also true for at least twelve plant species known to science. Despite intensive research, the forest’s rich biodiversity is far from being fully recorded. Little work has been done on nocturnal primates, small mammals, bats, amphibians and reptiles.

The Ebo Forest Research Project is not only playing a major role in this regard, it is also active against poaching. The Club des Amis des Gorilles works to raise awareness and patrols the forest.

Ebo Forest stores 35 million tons of carbon. Clearing it would therefore also have a significant climate impact.

Ebo Forest has had a spiritual significance for generations of local people as a place for pre-Christian religious rites. Many of today’s elders were born in the forest and grew up there. There are numerous remains of abandoned settlements, underscoring the cultural significance of the forest. 

The Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife (MINFOF) is responsible for awarding logging concessions.

The region’s forests are already under considerable pressure: Greenfil, a plantation company, operates a 35,000-hectare oil palm concession in the immediate vicinity of Ebo Forest. The concession could be expanded to 123,000 hectares. According to Greenpeace, 1,700 hectares of forest have already been cleared.

Letter

To: the President of the Republic of Cameroon, Paul Biya

Your Excellency,

Cameroon hosts an important part of Africa’s remaining rainforests: Ebo Forest belongs to the most biodiverse ecosystem in the entire Gulf of Guinea. It provides habitat for more than 160 species of birds and endangered primates like drills and chimpanzees. The gorillas there could belong to a subspecies new to science. Since 2006, there have been plans to protect the forest as a national park.

More than 40 communities in the region have been living in harmony with and of the forest for many generations. They consider it their customary land, which they use for hunting, fishing, harvesting of non-timber forest products like food and medicine plants, and small-scale agriculture. Furthermore, the forest has spiritual significance as a site for traditional rituals such as dancing and invoking spirits, and it also contains gravesites of close relatives of community elders that are an integral part of their traditional beliefs. Most of the traditional rulers who joined the Association des Chefs Traditionnels Riverains de La Forêt d‘Ebo (ACTRIFE) engage in the protection of their land and their cultural heritage.

But now, irreplaceable nature and numerous livelihoods are in peril!

On February 4th, your government gazetted 150,000 hectares of Ebo Forest as two logging concessions (Forest Management Units UFA 07-005 and UFA 07-006). The local population was neither informed, nor consulted as required by the principles of free, prior informed consent (FPIC). Their rights to their ancestral land were ignored.

If realized, the logging concessions would cause immense social injustice and impact the climate and regional ecosystems. Logging opens the door for the wholesale destruction of the environment, as poachers, settlers, and land grabbers pour into the newly opened areas. Huge shares of the 35 million tons of carbon stored in the forest could be released, worsening the climate emergency. Communities would lose their livelihoods and cultural heritage and could become increasingly vulnerable to new emerging diseases.

We kindly ask you to

- Revoke the logging concessions
- Protect Ebo forest and fulfill the promise to declare it a national park
- Respect the local population’s traditional rights and the principles of free, prior informed consent (FPIC) and involve them in any future land use planning process.

Yours faithfully,

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