Although a country-wide survey has not yet been undertaken in the Republic of Congo, previous surveys of ape abundance suggested that this country harbors relatively large chimpanzee and gorilla populations. The Goualougo Triangle Ape Project has conducted extensive line transect surveys to estimate the absolute abundance and habitat utilization of chimpanzees and gorillas in the intact forests of the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, as well as in an adjacent area that will be selectively logged in the near future. These ape density estimates serve as a baseline for this particular area and comparative data set for similar habitats in the region.
Evaluating the Impacts of Logging on Apes
To quantify the effects of the timber extraction process, it is necessary to collect data before, during, and after exploitation in a specific area. This study design can be further improved by simultaneously collecting control data in adjacent areas that will not be logged. Such an opportunity exists in the Goualougo Triangle located in the remote forests of the Republic of Congo. Chimpanzees and gorillas coexist throughout the study area, some of which was recently annexed to the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, while another section remains in the logging concession scheduled for exploitation in the near future.
The Goualougo Triangle Ape Project is employing a rigorous study design and suite of research methods to determine the effects of logging on apes. Repeated line transect surveys of ape signs are being used to evaluate trends in ape abundance and distribution within the logging zone adjacent to the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. We are also conducting reconnaissance surveys in the logging zone to identify social groups, collect behavioral data, and monitor ape health. Baseline surveys were conducted in 2004 before the arrival of timber inventory personnel. The Goualougo Triangle Ape Project is also monitoring ape densities in the adjacent Goualougo Triangle, which serves as a control condition for the logging zone. Our objective is to outline a framework within which logging companies adhering to sustainable forest management and certification can be the catalyst needed to ensure the long-term preservation of African great apes.
Sustainable Forest Management and the Rise of FSC
Increasingly, conservation biologists and NGOs in Central Africa view Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certification as a sustainable model for timber production and one that could be adopted as standard practice for all forestry concessions. FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. The Goualougo Triangle Ape Project’s logging studies not only utilize existing information on ape ecology and timber resource distribution to assess the potential benefits of Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) practices to great apes, but also to conduct field surveys to document the outcomes of such practices for at-risk ape populations in an active forestry concession. The ultimate goal of this research is to develop ways that ape conservation measures and informed management strategies can be integrated with present and future timber production.
Logging Concessions and Protected Areas in the Congo Basin
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