African Pygmy Hunt Threatened by Logging, Animal Trade

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The reserve and park encompass more than 5,500 square miles (14,000 square kilometers). Though hunting and logging are prohibited in the park, "in the reserve, hunting and use of the forest is allowed by traditional means," Carroll said.

According to Carroll, WWF has worked with the Bayaka to establish health-related and educational programs. The conservation organization has also helped them find work as forest guides for tourists who want to learn about net hunts and local medicinal plant uses.

"This has been such a huge hit with visitors and the Bayaka people," Carroll said.

However, several challenges remain. Chief among them is how to establish sustainable forestry practices in the reserve. Carroll said corrupt government officials and the boom-bust nature of the logging industry stifle progress toward sustainable forestry practices.

Alternative Management? Jerome Lewis is an anthropologist at the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom. He has worked with Bayaka communities since 1994. He agrees that the industrial extraction of forest resources and corruption are the root causes of the environmental problems facing central Africa. However, Lewis said that the creation of protected areas is often used by international financial institutions and national governments to justify opening up neighboring areas to unsustainable industrial activity. New roads permit outsiders to flood into areas of abundant resources and low human population densities. Urban centers develop around the industrial activities and forest resources that local people depend upon are rapidly depleted, he said. As an alternative management strategy, Lewis said that the entire region ought to be recognized as an abundant forest where only ecologically and socially sustainable industrial and commercial activities are permitted. For example, Lewis said, only logging companies certified as using sustainable practices by the Forest Stewardship Council should be allowed to operate in the Congo Basin and traditional hunter-gatherer activities should be permitted in all areas. "If these principles were applied rigorously, it would eliminate the need for protected areas because the forest would be managed in a sustainable and equitable manner," he said. "But by having the band-aid solution, we are encouraging devastation in most other areas." In the meantime, he said the Bayaka "feel cheated." They reap no benefits from the logging of their traditional hunting grounds and are denied access to the good areas of forest that remain.

Carroll said decades of logging and subsequent demographic shifts have already made central Africa's resources less abundant, necessitating some level of protection. Open access, he said, would eliminate what remains.

According to Carroll, the Bayaka understand that protected areas allow wildlife to reproduce and maintain its populations in the hunting zones. He added that 90 percent of the revenues from the Dzanga-Sangha protected areas are reinvested locally to pay salaries and fund community development programs such as health care facilities.

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