NAIROBI, May 22 (Xinhua) — The enhanced conservation of the Congo Basin, the world’s second-largest tropical forest after the Amazon, is key to halting the further loss of the endangered forest elephant species, senior officials said Monday during a virtual forum to mark International Day for Biological Diversity.
Home to a significant population of forest elephants, the Congo Basin is grappling with a myriad of human and climate-induced threats, necessitating the urgency to strengthen its conservation, said Rosalie Matondo, the minister of the Forest Economy of Congo. “The forest elephants are a vital species in the Congo Basin and protecting them is key to boosting tourism, climate resilience and livelihoods of local communities,” Matondo said.
Convened by the Elephant Protection Initiative, an African-led movement championing for enhanced protection of the iconic land mammal, the virtual forum brought together senior officials and conservationists to discuss innovative measures that could boost the ecological health of the Congo Basin, a crucial habitat for the forest elephants.
Lee White, the minister for Forests, Oceans, Environment & Climate Change in Gabon, noted that as an iconic giant land mammal, the forest elephants are crucial to ecosystem balance in the vast Congo Basin. In addition, the forest elephants roaming the Congo Basin are crucial to its regeneration, carbon capture and storage, and ecotourism besides remaining a symbol of cultural heritage for local communities, said White.
Fidel Esono Mba Eyono, the secretary of State for Forests & Environment in Equatorial Guinea, said that improved environmental governance combined with community engagement will be key to strengthening the protection of natural habitats for the forest elephant. According to Eyono, growing population, urbanization, poaching and climatic stresses were threatening the survival of forest elephants in the Congo Basin, hence the need for governments to scale up home-grown interventions.
The 2023 International Day for Biological Diversity should serve as a wake-up call for governments, industry, multilateral lenders and civil society, to reinvigorate the conservation of the Congo Basin and its charismatic species like the forest elephants, said John Scanlon, the chief executive officer of Elephant Protection Initiative Foundation. Investing in nature-based interventions to restore the ecological health of the Congo Basin will minimize threats to the forest elephants while creating sustainable revenue streams for local communities, said Scanlon.