And so despite the ever-present threats of deforestation and poaching, Dzanga-Sangha’s park staff, community advocates, doctors, rangers, educators, and researchers—and its famous elephants and gorillas—are doing well.
The larger Congo Basin is still faring better than the planet’s other major tropical forests, too. In southeastern Asia, for example, oil palm plantations and commercial logging have reduced the rich lowland forests of Malaysia and Indonesia to scattered patches. The Amazon, as is widely known, is burning.
Sadly, all of this increases the stakes for protecting the Congo. “There’s no way to reach the goals we’ve set under the Paris Agreement without conserving a significant proportion of this intact forest in the Congo Basin,” says Kerry Cesareo, senior vice president for forests at WWF-US. And we must remain prepared for the threats—whether increased forestry, mining, or poachers targeting the forest’s elephants, gorillas, and other wildlife—that remain.
To offset that risk, Arranz hopes for a return to the 1,000 or so tourists Dzanga-Sangha used to see annually, back before civil violence gripped the country. In 2018, numbers were up to 415; but in 2019 there was a dip to 293, which Arranz attributes to construction on the lodge. He says bookings at the lodge had far surpassed 2019 numbers as of March, and he’d estimated the park would see 1,000 visitors again this year. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Now, he acknowledges, “nobody knows.”