AFRICA ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK
Past, present and future perspectives

CENTRAL AFRICA

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The Drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus)-one of Africa's least known primates-is facing increasing pressure as a target for bushmeat.

Frank W. Lane

Central Africa has a wide diversity of habitats spanning dense humid forests, savannas, semi-deserts (on the Sahelian borders), freshwater lakes, mangrove forests and coral reefs. Species diversity and endemism are high in the sub-region, mainly due to the abundant tropical forests. The forest of the Congo Basin is the second largest contiguous area of forest in the world, and the largest in Africa. It is also one of the most biologically diverse and most poorly understood of Africa's ecosystems (IUCN, WWF & GTZ 2000). Data compiled in 1992 indicate that, of the 40 850 plant taxa so far enumerated in Central Africa, nearly 16 per cent are endemic to the area, and 175 of them are classified as rare (WRI, UNEP & UNDP 1992). There are 11 000 forest plant species in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) alone and over 3000 of these are endemic. Cameroon has 8 000 forest plant species while the Central African Republic is home to 1000 endemic species of plants (IUCN, WWF & GTZ 2000). Bird diversity is also high in Central Africa, with more than 1 000 species in the DRC (IUCN, WWF & GTZ 2000).

ECOLOGICAL, ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL VALUES OF BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES IN CENTRAL AFRICA

Central Africa's biological resources are the backbone of the sub-region's economy and support millions of livelihoods. Timber extraction is growing rapidly and timber exports exceeded 50 per cent of all exports from Equatorial Guinea in 1993. They totalled more than 1.7 million m3 in 1998 (IUCN, WWF & GTZ 2000). Up to 63 per cent of the Central African countries' population live in rural areas, and many people are dependent on forest resources such as wood for construction and fuel, plants and animals for food, medicines, clothing, and household items.