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Africa's First Regionwide Conservation Treaty Signed at Historic Congo Basin Forest Summit

Washington, DC -- The signing of Africa's first ever region-wide conservation treaty, and an agreement to protect over seven percent of the Congo Basin forests are historic milestones for the future of the world's second largest rainforest, WWF, the global conservation organization, said today.

The treaty was signed by the Presidents of 10 Central African nations (Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Sao Tome and Principe, Rwanda, and Burundi) during the Second Heads of State Forest Summit in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. It legally recognizes the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC) as the only decision-making body on forests for the Central African Region.

Meanwhile, the TRIDOM Agreement between Cameroon, Gabon and Congo will protect 37 million acres of forests including Dja, Odzala and Minkebe National Parks, the equivalent of 7.5 percent of the entire Congo Basin.

"The treaty and the TRIDOM agreement will help Central African countries cooperate across borders in protected areas management, to tackle poaching and the illicit bushmeat trade, as well as illegal logging. These activities are particularly detrimental for the livelihood and culture of the local pygmy communities," said Richard Carroll, Director of WWF's Africa/Madagascar Program.

Also signed at the Summit was an accord allowing free movement of park staff between Cameroon, Central African Republic and Republic of Congo in the Sangha Tri-National Conservation Area. This means that park staff can work across international borders to fight poaching and illegal logging.

"These agreements mean that park staff no longer have to watch helplessly as poachers in one country escape across the river into another," Carroll added. "Central Africa is a model for the entire world on how to reach across borders to tackle the tough issues that are threatening wildlife, forests and the livelihoods of local communities."

However, with the exception of the $52 million pledged by the European Union, no new commitments on additional funding for conservation in the Congo Basin have been made so far, WWF regrets.

"WWF hopes that during the French Facilitation of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) the international community, including France, will be able to mobilize the necessary funds to implement the Treaty," said Laurent Some, Regional Representative of WWF in Central Africa.

The Congo Basin Forest Partnership was announced by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in September 2002, together with a four-year USAID grant of US$53 million. The partnership will help conserve 29 protected areas, and promote responsible forestry and community-based conservation in 11 priority landscapes spanning the Congo Basin. At the Summit, facilitation of the CBFP was turned over to France.

The Brazzaville Summit, February 4-5, is the follow-up to 1999's historic Yaounde Summit, hosted by President Paul Biya of Cameroon and co-chaired by WWF President Emeritus Prince Philip.