Cameroon suspends logging plans in Ebo Forest

Gorilla in Ebo Forest, Cameroon © Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Global

Hamburg, Germany, August 13, 2020 – Good news from Cameroon: Earlier this year, the government decided to open a vast stretch of Ebo Forest – the home of the Banen people and habitat of gorillas and chimpanzees – to loggers. The President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, has now suspended that plan. The forest cannot be considered to be completely safe for the foreseeable future, however.

Local people, the scientific community and conservationists sounded the alarm in February 2020 when the government announced plans to open 133,392 hectares – an area nearly the size of London – for logging. This would have destroyed the livelihoods of local communities, endangered the forest’s unique biodiversity and wiped out the habitat of critically endangered primates.

President Biya suspended the government’s plans by repealing Decree 2020/3216/PM from July 14, 2020. Two areas of 68,385 and 65,007 hectares would have been affected.

“We welcome the suspension for now of logging plans in Ebo forest, but are concerned that its fate remains unclear. This decision must be the first step towards recognition of Banen’s rights and forest protection,” writes Victor Yetina, Chief of Ndikbassogog and representative of the Association Munen Retour aux Sources, and Dr. Ekwoge Abwe, manager of the San Diego Zoo’s Ebo Forest Research Project in a joint statement supported by Rainforest Rescue and Greenpeace Africa.

Rainforest Rescue, Greenpeace Africa and other organizations are working to protect Ebo Forest. More than 118,000 people have signed Rainforest Rescue’s Ebo Forest petition since its launch in late July.

Rainforest Rescue campaigner Mathias Rittgerott: “President Paul Biya’s decision has put a stop to a potentially devastating plan. Our next goal will be to put lasting protection for Ebo Forest in place, as the plans have only been put on ice and can be reactivated at any time. Future plans must put the rights and informed participation of local communities front and center.”

Greenpeace Africa campaign manager in Cameroon, Ranece Jovial Ndjeudja: “The suspension of logging plans for Ebo forest presents an important opportunity for social and environmental justice. Greenpeace Africa remains vigilant in its support of community rights and forest protection in Cameroon and across the Congo Basin rainforest.”

Chief Victor Yetina and Dr. Ekwoge Abwe: “We call on the Government of Cameroon to adhere to its international commitments* and to promote participatory mapping and land-use planning with local communities. Land tenure reform must have at its core the full recognition of communities’ rights. … We also call on international donors and NGOs to support these processes with technical expertise and resources, both in Ebo forest and across the Congo Basin.”

Ebo Forest is a biodiversity hotspot: It is likely that the local gorillas represent a distinct subspecies. The forest’s roughly 700 chimpanzees are culturally unique, being the only ones known to have mastered both the use of stones to crack nuts and sticks to catch termites. For centuries, the inhabitants of more than 40 villages belonging to the Banen people have lived in and around Ebo Forest without endangering it.

Rainforest Rescue will monitor further developments closely and not let up in its campaign to protect Ebo Forest and the rights of its indigenous people.

* This refers to the Paris Agreement on Climate Protection (2015), Agreement on the Conservation of Gorillas and their Habitats (2007) and the Convention on Biodiversity (1992).

Contact: Mathias Rittgerott, Campaigner, Rainforest Rescue (Rettet den Regenwald e.V.), Tel: +1 514 803 9070, mathias.rittgerott@regenwald.org

Tal Harris, International Communications Coordinator, Greenpeace Africa, Mobile/WhatsApp: +221-774643195 I Office: +221-338694924 tharris@greenpeace.org

Additional photos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/18R3QFrFtrq_LB5FpuTV5V_aU7Xg1ZzC-?_ga=2.250206406.1557912003.1597320542-1792688506.1585149734

The petition: https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/petitions/1221/no-to-logging-in-cameroons-ebo-forest

Rainforest Rescue (Rettet den Regenwald e.V.) is a nonprofit organization based in Hamburg, Germany. Since 1986, its campaigners have been working closely with partner organizations in the global South to preserve rainforests, stand up for the rights of indigenous people and protect wildlife.