Forest elephant looking at camera in Loango National Park. The pinker tusks of the elephants from the Congo Basin are greatly desired by poachers. Photo Credit: Richard McManus/Getty ImagesAnimalsEnvironment Gabon
Win-Win: Rainforest Gains Protection, and Endangered Elephant Steers Away from Extinction
Through pro-environment legislation, Gabon managed to save its equatorial rainforest and by the same token, revitalize its endangered elephant population which grew by a third over the last decade.
When President Ali Bongo Ondimba took over his father in 2009, he said that his challenge was to convince “my people that a tree left living is more valuable than a tree cut down; an animal left alive is more valuable than one dead”.
President Ondimba joined forces with British-born zoologist Professor Lee White, and the two committed environmentalists declared war on poachers. In order to protect the country’s rainforest, a crucial part of the much larger Congo Basin rainforest, – and its rich environment where animal and plant species have yet to be discovered – that covers 85% of the territory, ivory smugglers were jailed and illegal loggers were kicked out. Also, importantly, businesses were allowed land, so long as it was for sustainable activities. As a result of these actions taken, the population of elephants in Gabon increased by more than a third over the past decades, reaching 95,000 individuals. Even though the Congolian Forest’s size is a third of the Amazon’s, it absorbs 100 times more carbon since it is in a much healthier condition. The “lungs of the world” contain eight years’ worth of global carbon emissions with 45% locked in its trees and 55% in its soil.