A VITAL PIECE OF NATURAL HERITAGE TO BE SAVED
Ten years ago, in 2006, the government of Congo committed to the creation of a new protected area: the Ogooué Leketi National Park, to make a trans-frontier protected zone with the Plateau Batéké National Park in Gabon. The forest was, at the time, one of the last intact areas in southern Congo, naturally protected by the two rivers, the Ogooué and the Leketi, from which the park would take its name. It is priority site for the conservation of elephants and great apes.
In the intervening years, pressure from Asian timber interests resulted in part of the proposed park being attributed as logging concessions. Since 2012 logging activity has expanded into the area, as the loggers search of Okoumé trees to be made into plywood. With the loggers has come an increase in illegal hunting and poaching. Sometimes the logging companies don’t feed their staff, but tell them to hunt for what they need in the forest. Poachers from far away also use the logging roads to penetrate far into the remote corners to find bushmeat for the urban markets. This has taken a heavy toll, and the impacts of poaching have even been felt across the border in Gabon.
During this time WCS has continued to fight for the protection of the wildlife. Dedicated WCS field staff, Clement Inkamba Nkulu and Russel Tsoumou work with our forest ministry collaborator Noe Mabiala and local forest ministry personnel to hold back the tide of illegal hunting. Regular surveillance missions and anti-poaching patrols routinely seize firearms and protected species from poachers, some of whom are willingly transported by the logging companies. In the meantime the logging companies continue to ignore their legal obligations to protect the area and control hunting by their own staff.
However, logging activity in the proposed park area is now almost over, and the companies are moving out. They leave behind a forest that has been badly scarred by their activities, but which retains the capacity to regenerate. We ask the government of Congo to conclude the process started in 2006, and give the area its protected status. Access points to the park will be dismantled and the two rivers can once again ensure that the forest is naturally protected. With protection of the area, the animals will return.