In a unique agreement with logging companies and conservation organizations, the Government of Gabon has agreed to end logging in the 1,900-square-mile Lopé Reserve, home to the highest density of large mammals ever recorded in a tropical rain forest, the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced today.
The region supports a mosaic of forests, savannas and mountains that contain gorillas, elephants, mandrills, chimpanzees and a wealth of other species, some found nowhere else on Earth. It also contains archaeological remains without parallel in all of Central Africa, including stone tools dating back 350,000 years and an astonishing collection of over 2,000 rock engravings.
Until recently, logging had been permitted within the reserve through a legal loophole that opened more than half of the original area to some form of deforestation. In the new agreement, which was signed on July 11th, the boundaries of the reserve will change, giving over a less biologically rich area to a logging company, but adding and protecting an area of significant biodiversity originally slated for logging.
"Today, Lopé is once again a key protected area of prime national and international importance," said Dr. Lee White, a WCS conservation ecologist who has worked in the reserve for the past several years. "This agreement is a landmark for conservation in Gabon."
White has studied both mandrills and chimpanzees in the reserve. He discovered unprecedented mandrill groupings that number up to 1,000 individuals, and also noted the devastating effects logging has had on chimpanzee society, which resulted in violent turf battles between individual family groups displaced by human activity.
First created in 1946 by the Governor of Gabon, Lopé was originally set aside to preserve the area's natural beauty, and to protect its population of large mammals and historical areas. Since then however, its legal status has been modified seve
Contact: Stephen Sautner
Wildlife Conservation Society