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Cameroon rainforest given 30 days to be conserved or sold off for logging

An 830,000-hectare tract of rainforest in Cameroon has been granted a 30-day reprieve from logging following a 4-week exploratory expedition that turned up large populations of lowland gorillas, forest elephants, mandrills, and chimpanzees, according to expedition leader Mike Korchinsky, founder of the conservation group Wildlife Works.

The Cameroonian government has given Wildlife Works, which pioneered the first forest-based carbon project in Kenya, 30 days to come up with a competitive proposal to logging. The group is now scrambling to secure necessary funding to finance the early stages of the project.

Lowland gorilla in neighboring Gabon.

“The Campo Gorilla Reserve at the Los Angeles Zoo cost $19M to construct in 1997 and is home to 6 gorillas on a three-quarter acre site. The Ngoyla-Mintom Rainforest Sanctuary will cost $10M to secure and is home to over 2000 gorillas on a 2 million acre site.”
– Mike Korchinsky

“We have buy in from the local community, including Baka pygmies who depend on this forest,” Korchinsky told “This is a beautiful rainforest that houses a lot of wildlife and stores a lot of carbon. It provides important services to the 10,000 or so people who live in the area and losing it to loggers would leave them a lot poorer.”

Ngoyla-Mintom borders the Republic of Congo and serves as a corridor of habitat between three national parks in Cameroon, Gabon and Republic of Congo. Conservation groups managed to hold off logging in the area for nearly a decade but failed to deliver on promises to develop ecotourism and sustainable industries. Facing a credit crunch from falling commodity prices, the Cameroon government last year said it would divide Ngoyla-Mintom into 9 blocks to be sold off to loggers. The subsidiary of an Australian mining firm, Cam Iron, recently signed a deal to mine iron southeast of the area.

Wildlife Works aims to eventually finance the project by selling forest carbon credits in the voluntary carbon market. Credits would be generated by avoiding deforestation that would otherwise occur if the forest were logged. Korchinsky estimates the project could avoid 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, a conservative figure given the amount of carbon stored in the dense forest vegetation–likely upwards of 300 tons per hectare.

“We have 30 days,” said Korchinsky. “This is a race against time.”

Mike Korchinsky
mike (*at*) wildlifeworks (*dot*) com
415 265 4744

NOTE: Funding for Ngoyla-Mintom was secured within three weeks of this article’s publication. Final details are being negotiated with the Cameroonian government.

Earlier articles

Cameroon may liquidate rainforest reserve if conservationists don’t step forward

(03/02/2009) The opportunity to conserve a one million hectare tract rainforest in Cameroon is fast dwindling due financial pressures in the Central African country, reports a bulletin from the Ngoyla Mintom Foundation. In 2002 the government of Cameroon suspended logging rights and extended an offer to protect Ngoyla Mintom — a forest reserve that houses 4,000 lowland gorillas, 1,500 endangered chimpanzees, 3,000 forest elephants and an important population of vulnerable Mandrills — provided someone step forward to pay for it. To date there have been no takers. Now facing a mounting economic crisis, the government of Cameroon says it will soon concession Ngoyla Mintom for logging.

Carbon traders, not conservationists, could save Cameroon rainforest

(02/15/2008) The government of Cameroon is looking to lease 830,000 hectares of biodiverse tropical forest to conservationists for an annual sum of $1.6 million. The problem? No conservation groups are interested. Apparently the asking price is too high, according to The Economist.

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