Gabon Land Protection Agreement

By Cynthia Kirk

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

The government of Gabon and the tree-cutting industry have agreed to protect parts of an important rain forest in the West African country. The agreement bans tree-cutting in a large area of the country's Lope Reserve.

The agreement was reached in July after months of meetings among the government, the tree-cutting industry, and private environmental groups. Officials of the Wildlife Conservation Agency said the agreement was a major victory for African wildlife.

The Lope Reserve is in central Gabon. It has the highest number of large mammals ever recorded in a tropical rain forest. It is home to gorillas, elephants, mandrills, chimpanzees and many other animals. It also contains ancient objects, including stone tools and drawings in rocks.

The reserve was created in Nineteen-Forty-Six to protect the area's natural beauty, wildlife and historical objects. But for many years, the government of Gabon has permitted tree-cutting within the reserve because of pressure by the logging industry and economic gain. Environmental groups have long criticized the government for permitting forests to be cut down. They say roads built by the logging companies make it easier for hunters to enter the reserve to kill wildlife. Many animals in Gabon and all over central Africa are being killed because of the large market for the meat of wild animals.

Under the new agreement, the borders of the Lope Reserve will be changed. Logging companies will be permitted to cut trees in the southeastern area of the reserve. That land contains more trees and less wildlife. But most of the reserve will be permanently protected. The agreement also adds protections on an area of land that had been planned for clearing.

Environmental groups say the agreement gives too much to an industry that already has too much power and influence. Critics say the logging companies will violate the agreement because of a lack of supervision to enforce it. But Gabonese officials say the agreement protects the environment while permitting some development of land. The government says it also is considering plans to make the Lope Reserve the first national park in Gabon.

This is VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Bill White.

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