ancient trees of the African rainforest are home to indigenous peoples,
such as the pygmies.
saw the light
Back in the highly developed world, we Why Filers got to wondering about the last wild places. As Earth shrinks in a wave of population growth, development and global commerce, a few unwrecked Edens remain in the far corners of the globe.
Protected by geographic isolation, these treasures are variously dubbed the "last great places" or "biodiversity hotspots." Allow us to wax Biblical and call them "the Last Edens."
We may be talking fruits and snakes, but certainly not gardens. The Edens are places that have largely escaped agriculture and every other human activity that mucks up nature (although they are being damaged by global warming and pollution). The Edens are large chunks of irreplaceable habitat with intact collections of plants and animals.
planted a garden in Eden
Don't believe us? Consider that Homo sapiens have modified about 50 percent of the land surface, created more than 20 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas), and use more than half of accessible fresh water.
With the human population of 6.137 billion growing by 83 million per year, the Edens may not survive forever. The forces of development and destruction do vary by location, but they reach every corner of the globe.
Are the last Edens truly worth saving, or should we just extract all the timber, oil, minerals and food we can from them? What kind of place needs protection from sawing, paving, plowing and plundering?
and let live
Imagine such a place surviving in the 21st century.
in the Goualogo Triangle.
Now open your eyes and envision the 100-square-mile Goualogo Triangle, a rain forest between two swampy rivers in Central Africa.
The Triangle is in the Republic of the Congo. This nation of about 3-million is sometimes called Congo Brazzaville. To the south is war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, once called Zaire.
On July 6, 2001, the German logging firm Congolese Industrielle des Bois said it would return the right to log the Triangle to the Congo. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) acted as a midwife to the delivery, and will continue giving technical advice to the newly enlarged park.
the Earth generate plants
Paul Elkan, who led the survey, told reporters that African chimpanzees, which generally run and hide from people (who are often hunters), seemed fascinated by his crew (see "German Loggers..." in the bibliography).
There's more. Helen Crowley, assistant director of Africa programs at the conservation society, told us that human use or occupation generally leaves archeological evidence. Oral histories describe the area, and seeds dropped during meals may leave a legacy of food plants.
In Goualogo, in contrast, she says, "There's no sign, no history, no verbal documentation" of human occupation. "They might have wandered through, but as far as exploitation of the forest, no. The animals are fearless of people, that indicates that the area has not seen people for a long time."
The park expansion occurs against a background of rapid change in Central Africa. The human population is soaring -- in Congo by more than 2 percent per year. The prices of traditional crops are low, and logging has ramped up, threatening one of Earth's last great rain forests.
Loggers have to eat, and they're eating a lot of wild animals ("bushmeat") in Congo, as we'll see shortly.
In an Asian "Eden" on the Tibetan Plateau, they hunt wild antelopes for wool.
are 1 2 3 4
pages in this feature.
Bibliography | Credits | Feedback | Search