The U.S. must play a key role in saving central Africa's tropical forests, now in sudden peril due to an unprecedented land rush by high-volume logging companies, according to Michael Fay, a conservation biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) headquartered at the Bronx Zoo.
Fay, who brought attention to conservation problems in Congo two weeks ago on ABC's Prime Time Live, testified today, March 19, before the Africa Subcommittee of the International Relations Committee. He called for increased funding for protecting Africa's forests. Currently, U.S. funding mechanisms for the region fall short in supporting on-the-ground conservation of forest ecosystems, Fay says.
"The U.S. is trying to fix a gun-shot wound with a Band Aid," Fay says. "We need to increase our presence in central Africa if we hope to have good forest management into the next century."
After a regional depression, logging has boomed in the nations of Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic and Congo as a result of new governments, growing economies and increased interest from Asian nations such as Malaysia and China. Last year alone, Asian logging companies gobbled up an area twice the size of the state of New Jersey in central Africa. High-volume logging is a technique totally new to the region that severely compromises established management systems.
WCS provided evidence to the African Subcommittee that shows how the region's forests have become gravely threatened over the past year. WCS also called for more national parks and the use of sustainable logging techniques to protect unique forests and wildlife, which includes lowland gorillas, chimpanzees and forest elephants.