Rainforests are a crucial feature of life on Earth. They function as the “lungs of the Earth”, as by absorbing vast quantities of carbon dioxide they help to regulate global climate by acting as a major carbon sink. Rainforests have been described as treasure chests of biodiversity:
The Congo Basin in numbers
- Spreads across six countries
- Contains 25% of the world’s surviving tropical forests.
- 10 000 plant species
- 1 000 bird species (more than all of southern Africa)
- 700 fish species
- 10 000 plant species of which some 3 000 are endemic
- 125 000+ western lowland gorillas
In modern times rainforests have come under immense pressure from logging, mining, and the impacts of global climate change, but historically they have also sheltered many diverse ethnic groups of forest dwelling people in relative harmony. Many of our modern medicines, including important cancer and AIDS drugs, are based on synthesized rainforest plant compounds.
Much like the deep oceans, huge areas of rainforest remain unexplored and tragically humans are causing the extinction of species even before they have been discovered. However in Congo, large areas of the forest (such as the 13,000 square kilometer Odzala-Kokoua National Park) have been set aside as protected areas to safeguard these globally significant forests. Additionally, one of Africa’s largest Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified logging concessions is adjacent to Odzala, effectively doubling the protected area for wildlife.
Forest dwelling peoples have traditionally practiced sustainable lifestyles, utilising the forest as a larder, hardware store, and pharmacy, as well as finding inspiration for their animistic religions and rich cultures.
This spirit of sustainability can be seen in the enlightened approach the Congolese government is taking towards the logging industry and the long-term protection of its forests and wildlife. Rather than the destructive short-term free-for-all which has been seen in other countries, the Congo has regulated extractive practices to ensure that the country will be able to benefit from its natural resources for many generations to come.
Low-intensity logging conditions effectively function as “green belts”, extending the reach of Congo’s national parks and reserves and forming a vital buffer zone between the forest and areas of more concentrated human development.
It is our sincere hope and belief that eco-tourism will fit into this ecological and economic model and that it offers local people a sustainable way to participate in the modern economy through regular employment and skills training, and, crucially, by demonstrating the ongoing value of intact ecosystems and wildlife populations – a value which underpins much of Congo’s approach to the preservation of its natural riches.