Gabon sets aside 10 percent of country as protected parks
WCS press release
September 24, 2005
An unprecedented 10 percent of nation's land mass is set aside for gorillas, elephants and chimps.
According to Gabon's President El Hadj Omar Bongo, some 13 national parks comprising more than 10,000 square miles will be established, protecting vital habitat for gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants and other spectacular wildlife. Percentage-wise, only Costa Rica has set aside more land for conservation, though the total size of its parks is much smaller.
"This is a decision of global significance that implies certain sacrifices in the short- and medium-term in order to achieve our goal of preserving these natural wonders for future generations," said Gabon's President El Hadj Omar Bongo.
"This is one of the most courageous conservation acts in the last 20 years," said Dr. Steven Sanderson, president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. "President Bongo has set a new standard for wildlife protection in Central Africa -- one that we hope other nations will follow."
The parks range from regions along Gabon's coastline, where hippopotamuses frolic on untouched beaches, to unique forest clearings - home to "naïve" populations of gorillas that show no fear of humans. Much of the land set aside was based on years of field research by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has studied Gabon's wildlife since 1985.
In 2000, WCS conservationist Lee White played a key role in resolving a conflict between loggers and conservationists in the Lopé Reserve, a pristine forest-savanna mosaic, which will be part of the new park system. Using hard science, White helped direct logging activities away from pristine areas of high biological importance, in exchange for limited logging in less productive areas.
Key forest stats for Gabon from FAO:
Many of the new parks will be developed for ecotourism, as an economic alternative to exploiting Gabon's forests for timber. A commitment of U.S. funding announced by Secretary of State Colin Powell today, will help fund this endeavor.
"By creating these national parks, we will develop a viable alternative to simple exploitation of natural resources that will promote the preservation of our environment. Already there is a broad consensus that Gabon has the potential to become a natural Mecca, attracting pilgrims from the four points of the compass in search of the last remaining natural wonders on earth," President Bongo said.
You can learn more about Gabon and its parks and wildlife at gabonnationalparks.com
This is a modified press release from WCS.
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