In Time for Earth Day, Congolese Government Strengthens Protections for Critically Endangered Great Apes

ATLANTA, April 22, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Conservationists are celebrating news that the Democratic Republic of the Congo officially recognized three new community-managed forest concessions, collectively called the Nkuba Conservation Area (NCA), giving local communities ownership and management rights over their own forests. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund assisted with the formal recognition process and has entered into a 25-year agreement to help develop and implement sustainable plans for the forest home of the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla.

“The people of Nkuba show us it is possible to protect biodiverse wild spaces and the animals that live in them while at the same time building strong, supportive human communities,” says Dr. Tara Stoinski, chief scientist of the Fossey Fund. “In some areas, this community-based model may become a more practical, cost-effective way to preserve wild spaces than traditional national parks.”

The Fossey Fund began working in DRC in 2001 to expand protections for Grauer’s gorillas.  Because most live outside of national parks, they lack formal protection, and their population declined by an estimated 80% over the past 25 years, primarily as a result of poaching. The 1,300 sq km NCA is home to an estimated 200 Grauer’s gorillas.

The NCA is in located within the Congo Basin. Covering 1.2 million square miles and spanning six countries, the Congo Basin contains the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest, home to numerous endangered plant and animal species. By sequestering carbon, it serves as one of our best natural defenses against climate change. Deforestation rates in the Congo Basin have accelerated over the last two decades; if trends continue, scientists predict there could be no primary rainforest left in the DRC by the end of the century. 

Recognizing the importance of protecting these forests, the Congolese government formalized the legal framework for creating local community forestry concessions (CFCLs) in 2016, allowing landowners to apply for official recognition of their custodial rights and responsibilities to forests. In other countries where this approach has been adopted, community ownership provides an incentive to manage forests sustainably, slowing the rate of deforestation.

The recognition of the NCA increases the area of community-owned forests in DRC’s Walikale territory by 70%. The project also provides employment—the Fossey Fund has 70 staff local members on the ground in Nkuba who protect gorillas, study biodiversity and support education, livelihood and food security initiatives that improve human lives near the gorilla habitat.

“Today’s announcement is important for the Grauer’s gorillas that the Fossey Fund is working so hard to protect,” says Urbain Ngobogo, Fossey Fund’s DRC country director. “But it’s also a big moment for the Congolese, who have shown that we can lead the world in conservation.”

Images available here

About the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

For more, visit: Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @savinggorillas. Learn more about conservation efforts in Nkuba in the Ellen DeGeneres-produced film Endangered airing on Discovery+ on Earth Day.

Contact: Donna Gorman
(404) 624-5881

SOURCE Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund

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