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‘Dead’ Gola Rainforest rises up, wildlife saved

The Gola Rainforest, which covers the Gola National Park in Sierra Leone and Liberia (West Africa), appears to be one of the most shining examples of conservation on the continent.

Dubbed ‘Forest of Hope’ by BirdLife, a conservation group based in the UK, the Gola Rainforest has seen 70 000 hectares of its area conserved and restored, and its wildlife protected to prevent the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from deforestation and degradation.

Now, the park is said to be breathing a new sigh of relief thanks to BirdLife and its African partners, which include the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) and the Sierra Leone government.

Reports said these partners have been working for the past 25 years through thick and thin – a deadly civil war and the Ebola outbreak – to bring the ‘half-dead’ rainforest and its national park back to life.

Tropical rainforests – apart from being treasure troves of wildlife – act as the earth’s carbon sinks, experts say, adding that they absorb carbon dioxide (a major cause of global warming) released through burning of fossil fuels and other processes and prevent it from being released into the atmosphere.

The Gola REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) project has prevented 1.19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. Countless species of wildlife seem to have been saved and hope was reportedly brought to over 24 000 people who entirely depend on the Gola Forest for livelihoods.

For the first time in Africa, a conservation of this project has entered the baffling world of carbon trading.

Forests cover 31% of the planet’s land area, and over 1.6 billion people rely on benefits forests offer, including food, fresh water, clothing, traditional medicine and shelter, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says. Forests are of critical importance because they are home to many of the world’s most threatened and endangered animals.

In Africa, the impact of deforestation and degradation is massive and heartbreaking.

(with the assistance of Nicolas Tubbs/BirdLife, additional reporting and final editing by Issa Sikiti)

Photo: The Gola Rainforest in Sierra Leone and Liberia harbours 60 globally thrreatened species. credit: David Zeller/BirdLife

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