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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 February, 2005, 23:39 GMT
African treaty to protect forest
Rainforest of Gaben, picture WWF-Canon/Michel Gunther
Illegal logging is just one of the threats to Africa's forest.
Leaders of seven African nations have signed a joint treaty to protect their continent's massive rainforest - second only to that found in the Amazon basin.

They were joined by international officials as well as French President Jacques Chirac in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville.

The treaty aims to breathe new life into a conservation project set up five years ago, which has not progressed.

There are 2.3 million sq km (890,000 sq miles) of tropical forests in Congo.

Priority

Described as being one of the world's "two lungs", the African forests are shrinking at a rate of 8,000 sq km per year, plagued by illegal logging, excessive poaching and ecological damage.

The talks brought together heads of state and government, and African and Western logging companies, with the aim of co-ordinating local and global efforts to preserve Africa's rainforests.

French President Jacques Chirac, who attended the summit as part of an African tour, was the only industrialised country leader at Saturday's talks.

He stressed that tackling illegal logging was the "priority objective".

Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Mathai of Kenya has agreed to be the goodwill ambassador for the protection of the forest of the Congo basin.

Her task will be to find ways to curb illegal logging and the illegal trade in bushmeats.

Gorilla
The illegal trade in bushmeat is damaging the forest
The signatories are also expected to create a certification system for tropical wood, such as the one which already exists for diamonds, so that consumers in the West would be aware of the origin of the wood of furniture they buy.

The aim is to protect more than 200 million hectares of forest which is spread over seven countries in central Africa.

Greenpeace believes any decision will be difficult to implement, fearing corruption.

President Chirac was on his first visit since the end of the civil war in 1999 and since France dropped a legal case which created tension between the two countries last year.




SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Saving forests
05 Feb 05 |  In Pictures
Concern over Congo logging
16 Aug 04 |  Africa
Private forest planted in Congo
19 Jan 04 |  Africa
Africa's forgotten and ignored war
18 Oct 03 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Pygmies' bushmeat trade woe
02 Sep 03 |  Science/Nature
Q&A: Plunder in Congo
21 Oct 02 |  Business


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