WILDLIFE WOOD PROJECT: JOHN BITAR & CO., LTD. PARTNERING FOR A SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF WILDLIFE IN TROPICAL TIMBER PRODUCTION FORESTS.
Protected areas form the cornerstone of forest conservation efforts, but they are often too small and fragmented to support the larger and rarer mammals. Management of these species is also needed in production forests which cover a much larger area. Today, in fact, about half of African rainforests is allocated to the utilization of valuable timber species. The Wildlife Wood Project (WWP) was established to assist several logging companies to adopt low-impact logging practices and apply innovative, yet effective, wildlife management measures in their logging concessions. John Bitar & Co., Ltd. is committed to sustainable management of forests and a partner in the Wildlife Wood Project.
A collaborative project in Ghana and Cameroon
Wildlife living in the logged forests is facing considerable threats such as commercial bushmeat hunting, poaching, habitat loss and modification, disease outbreak, etc. Because they very often lack qualified manpower, appropriate equipment and financial means; African governments are often confronted with great difficulties when it comes to managing wildlife outside of protected areas. Paradoxically, logging offers a great potential for the conservation of many animal species in Central and West Africa. Because it has the capacity on the ground, the logging sector is able to manage production forests and wildlife in such a way as to ensure their long term survival in areas that do not benefit from a legal protection status.
Following an inter-governmental conference hosted by ZSL in December 2003, WWP has focused on Ghana and Cameroon to serve as case studies for West and Central Africa, respectively. ZSL collaborates closely with Timbet-Silverman, major timber purchaser in England, and through this collaboration WWP has established partnerships with progressive timber producers in these regions. Progress toward sustainable timber production and efforts to maintain wild animals' status in African production forests require engagement between conservation and commercial objectives. The WWP, thus, operates in collaboration with a diversity of stakeholders in addition to timber companies including timber certification bodies, conservation groups, universities, local communities and governments.
Timber certification, the road to a better future?
Timber certification is a strong economical incentive for timber companies to engage into sustainable practices. The process of certification rests on internationally agreed standards, and independent inspections that verify if a set management procedures are implemented and desired outcomes achieved. It allows a company managing a forest area to receive independent certification that its management practices have maintained a given social and biological situation.
The interests of wildlife are still not well integrated into certification standards, and the WWP aims to improve the situation by identifying informative and cost-effective wildlife indicators. These indicators can be used to audit timber companies. With globally agreed wildlife indicators, certification bodies will be better able to determine whether sufficient efforts are being made by a given company to maintain wildlife status in its concession.
The bushmeat trade, a still unsolved threat
In West and Central Africa, the unsustainable hunting and trapping of wildlife – commonly called the bushmeat trade - has been accelerated by logging activities in two main ways; by constructing roads that open up access for commercial hunters into previously inaccessible forests, and by bringing in timber workers who hunt wildlife for subsistence and sale. By assessing wildlife intake around timber concessions, WWP ought to gain insights into local bushmeat economies. With a better understanding of the functioning and consequences of illegal bushmeat trade, alternatives to bushmeat trading can be developed and repressive actions against lawbreakers can be applied.
Capacity building for future generations
Because a conservation and development go hand in hand with education, WWP is training logging staff, government rangers, local communities, and university students into wildlife monitoring techniques. That way, future generations of timber concessions actors will be able to continue efforts for conserving wildlife and achieve development goals simultaneously.
Policy and environmental awareness
There exist laws to protect wildlife in logging concessions. Partnerships between conservation-oriented and private sector open an important avenue for linking timber certification with more general policy initiatives, such as the European Commission FLEGT process – Forest Law Enforcement and Governance in Trade. The overall aim of which is to ensure that policy instruments and laws are enforced.
Please click here to view a presentation from Zoological Society of London