Last week I was blogging about new plans to save the okapi (or forest giraffe); an elusive creature whose known existence to man has been blighted by civil war, social instability and habitat loss. Although conservation attempts have been especially dogged by civil war in recent years, the new plans gave real hope for future protection not only for the species but its habitat too
The Okapi is native to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); you’re probably more aware of its social problems than the impressive rainforest habit that it boasts. Actually it has the world’s second largest remaining tracts of rainforests, including a large amount of primary, undisturbed forest and of course species like okapis and bonobos.
This week I am blogging about the DRC again, and their intentions to end the logging moratorium put in place in 2002 to protect the rainforests. Obviously the very idea of removing rainforest protections to most people in 2016 when we are surrounded by protect the rainforest images everywhere must seem ludicrous.
So why would the DRC consider such a move. 1 word: economics. According to a statement by Environment Minister Robert Bopolo Bogeza the move is being driven by economic benefits.
The civil war has had a huge cost on human life in the country. But it has also taken an economic toll in that fighting was often fuelled by the country’s vast mineral wealth. Virunga National Park is a striking example of this.
However will opening the rainforest up for industrial logging create any economic benefit for the citizens of the DRC? Joesph Bobia of Réseau Ressources Naturelles (RRN) states “Around a tenth of the DRC’s rainforest is already being logged. And yet, in 2014 the country obtained a pitiful USD8 million in fiscal revenues from the sector – the equivalent of about 12 cents for every Congolese person.” Thus it appears that the Governments claims that logging will benefit the economy are relatively unfounded.
Moreover the Government appears to be threatening international investments. Currently the county is being considered to benefit from two major international initiatives which will provide funding to protect the country’s forests. Both of these could become seriously compromised if logging were to recommence.
It really appears that there may be little long-term benefit to removing the moratorium. 40 million people rely on the rainforest for for food, fuel, water, and other needs, as well as the huge array of biodiversity which stands to be threatened by logging. In fact it is more likely to cause widespread misery for those dependent on the rainforest.
With illegal deforestation still rife in the DRC it seems an absurd move to potentially destroy the international investment you may be receiving to instead destroy what you could be protecting. The DRC has a very progressive stance on community forestry, with the community forestry legislation being brought in this month. Perhaps it would be wiser to focus on community forestry and protection instead which would also allow those dependent on the forests to prosper.
You can find out more about okapi conservation and donate to save this species here: The Okapi Conservation Project
Featured Image Credit: The Okapi Conservation Project
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