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News release

ITTO backs west African gorilla sanctuary

Yokohama, Japan, 10 April 2001

A proposal for a transboundary conservation reserve between Cameroon and Gabon will help conserve a vital population of lowland gorillas.

The idea for the reserve first arose during discussions between ITTO's Executive Director, Dr Sobral, and the Cameroonian Prime Minister, Mr Peter Mafany Musonge, and Minister of Environment and Forests, Mr Sylvestre Naah Ondoua, last year and has now been developed into a project proposal.

The Mengame Protected Forest Area is located in southern Cameroon along the border with Gabon. It contains 65,000 hectares of prime habitat for the western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). However, in view of the increasing threat to the species, the Cameroonian government is proposing to extend this reserve to some 122,000 hectares.

During an ITTO mission to the area, senior Gabonese officials welcomed the Cameroonian government's initiative, observing that strengthening transboundary cooperation would help mobilise Cameroonian support for reducing the damage caused by poachers on its side of the border.

Meanwhile, the Gabonese government is also requesting ITTO assistance to implement a socio-economic study in the Minkebe Forest Reserve on the Gabonese side. The eventual aim is to establish and manage about 137,000 hectares of the forest for gorilla conservation.

The resulting transboundary conservation reserve would be about 255,000 hectares in size and would be called the Mengame-Minkebe Transboundary Gorilla Sanctuary. It would protect one of Africa's richest primate habitats and some 16 primate species from hunting and deforestation. The Minkebe forest is also home to one of the most significant populations of elephant on the African continent.

A project establishing the transboundary conservation reserve will be considered by the International Tropical Timber Council in May 2001; already, donors have expressed interest in funding it.

If funded, this project will join a growing suite of transboundary conservation initiatives promoted and financed by ITTO. Currently, the Organization is sponsoring transboundary conservation areas covering nearly 10 million hectares spanning nine tropical countries.

For more information contact: Mr Alastair Sarre, Editor & Communications Manager, editor@itto.or.jp