Recently I had the good fortune to visit Gabon and travelled to some of the new National Parks declared by President Bongo as a result of the Mega-Transect conducted by Mike Fay and brought to the publics' attention by the National Geographic and WCS.

This far-sighted program was a direct result of the publicity created by this ambitious project that highlighted the incredible richness in natural resources that Gabon is lucky enough to still possess. With 80% of the rainforest cover still intact and having found places where elephants and gorillas have never come into contact with humans (and as a consequence not hunted) this is a unique opportunity for a country to develop an Ecotourism industry that its over-utilized neighbors can only wish for.

The visit to Ivindo National Park and in particular the Langoue Bai, which was discovered by Mike Fay on the Mega-Transect, was indeed a remarkable experience. The dedicated research staff sponsored by the WCS and ECOFAC are monitoring populations of 'naive' gorillas and elephant that had not been poached in an area so remote that it had escaped the ravages of commercial logging and its concomitant, the insidious 'bush-meat' trade, that is destroying so much of the habitat in the rest of Central and Western Africa.

But Gabon is not free of these problems as a recent snap inspection by National Parks staff of the TransGabonese passenger train from Franceville to Libraville highlighted. One train was found to produce 2 tonnes of bush-meat being shipped to the more lucrative urban market places of the capital. It is hoped that the push to develop tourism will also include educating the local inhabitants that the animals they are killing are essential for the future of their children and the country's economy.

Another recent sobering and horriffic occurance was the discovery of the remains of 24 gorillas just to the north of Lope National Park in April 2004. It was not just the loss of so many endangered animals in one small area that is so worrying but the fact that the animals had been killed for tourist trophies. All had their heads, hands and feet chopped off for potential sale to tourists and their bodies left to rot with no effort to use the flesh for traditional bush-meat trade. A tragedy not only in a waste of precious life but also the realization of how some of the local people see the ways of making money out of the developing tourist trade.

The curio markets in Libreville, the Gabonese capital, also had elephant ivory openly on sale and this emphasizes why tourists visiting countries where local people are more concerned with making a daily living and feeding their families have to be informed and responsible.

Other web-sites worth visiting for more information on these problems are :-

Plans for the near future include a visit to Uganda/Rwanda to visit and photograph chimps as well as the rare and endangered Mountain gorilla.