Protected Forest Expanded In The Congo

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In the past year the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has expanded the area of forest under its protection in the Democratic Republic of Congo by 50%.

Community collaboration

Now the size of forest under protection is 2379 sq km. The forest is community owned and comprises the Nkuba Conservation Area (NCA). The conservation area has been in effect for the past decade, and is a collaboration between local communities and the Fossey Fund. The NCA is estimated to be home to 200-300 critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas.

The Congolese government has given the local communities official recognition with regard their ownership and management rights over the forest. The Fossey Fund has a 25 year management agreement with the community leaders to help develop sustainable management plans for the forest. The collaboration also includes research on the ecosystem, training of Congolese scientists, and initiatives focused on livelihoods and education.

Second largest tropical rainforest

The NCA is home to at least seven threatened mammals, including the Grauer’s gorillas and chimpanzees. It is located within the Congo Basin, which is the world’s second largest tropical rainforest. It is vitally important these forests are untouched from a conservation and environmental point of view. They serve as a carbon sink for an estimated quarter billion tons of carbon.

Deforestation of the Congo Basin is a real threat. It has accelerated over the past 10 years. Mainly this is due to the land being cleared for farming.

Community ownership

The Congolese government recognises the significance of the retaining the forests and conserving them. That is why they introduced and formalised the right for communities to own and take responsibility for the forest. It is a proven method of slowing down deforestation and managing the forest more sustainably.

Community ownership is beneficial from an environmental point of view given less deforestation occurs, and also from a conservation viewpoint as well as wildlife benefits too. A recent study found that Grauer’s gorillas living in parts of the forest that are community owned fared better than those within forest designated as national park.

Celebrating 10 years of protecting Congo’s gorillas

The Dian Fossey Fund is excited to have been working in Nkuba for 10 years and can now celebrate the 50% rise in the amount of protected forest. That gives hope to the long term outlook for the Grauer’s gorillas that live there and the hundreds of other species that also call it home.

The Dian Fossey Fund began protecting gorillas in Rwanda 55 years ago, and expanded to Congo in 2001 to help save the Grauer’s gorillas. It is estimated that more than 60% of Grauer’s gorillas have been lost in the past 30 years. One of the largest issues is that the majority of the gorillas live outside of the protected national parks.

The Fossey Fund does more than just protect gorilla’s, it invests in the local communities by providing jobs, education and food security initiatives. They are aware that helping the local communities is a huge part of helping save the gorillas.

If you would like to find out about adopting a gorilla then please visit our Gorilla Adoption page.

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