Monday 30 September 1996

This small republic on the west coast of central Africa stands as a test case for Africa's rainforests which are suffering the fastest rate of logging in the world. Gabon has nearly eighty five per cent of green cover which consists of some of the most diverse tropical forests in the world. These ancient forests shelter over 8,000 plant species, 600 different types of bird and 20 species of primate including endangered species like elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees. All this is now under threat from foreign loggers, mostly European, who fell okoume trees and export them to make plywood.

For the Gabonese people, the profits are minimal as 93 per cent of the timber is exported as raw logs. Of the five protected reserves in the country where logging is illegal unless permitted by the government, the Lope reserve is facing a particularly grave threat. Located in central Gabon, the reserve contains large expanses of virgin forests. The government is planning to issue permits for logging in the very heart of Lope reserve. Environmentalists have condemned the move which could destroy not only the reserve but also endanger the rest of the protected reserves.

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