Monday, December 10, 2007

Sierra Leone sets up forest park

Sierra Leone's president is launching a scheme to save part of an endangered rainforest, which campaigners say will help fight climate change.

Forest buffalo (Pic: Brent Huffman, Ultimate Ungulate images)People living near the Gola Forest, near the border with Liberia, are to be paid annually, to compensate for the loss of royalties from logging firms.

The 75,000 hectare park is home to 50 species of mammals, including leopards, chimpanzees and forest buffalos.

President Ernest Bai Koroma hopes the new national park will boost tourism.

Sierra Leone is recovering from a brutal decade-long civil war, which ended in 2002.

Campaigners say that without official protection, the Gola Forest would have been destroyed within 10 years, as Sierra Leone tried to raise living standards.

Aid agencies, the European Commission and France are setting up a $12m (£6m) trust fund to pay for the park's running costs and to make annual payments to some 100,000 people.

It is to become Sierra Leone's second national park.

The Gola Forest is also home to 274 bird species, 14 of which are close to extinction, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is helping to fund the scheme.

"We are helping the government turn a logging forest into a protected forest," said the RSPB's Alistair Gammell.

"Huge amounts of carbon will be saved and the site is an excellent example to those now involved in climate talks in Bali."

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Sierra Leone sets up forest park