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J. Michael Fay  







Gabon conservation  

NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
4 Dec 2001

  • United States
    District of Columbia
  • Washington, D.C.; National Public Radio
  • 38.90213   -77.02079
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Interview with Mike Fay
Dec 4, 2001

MF = Mike Fay
AC = Alex Chadwick

ID ... I'm Mike Fay -I work for the Wildlife Conservation Society and the NGS. 00:41

AC -what has happened along the course of the Mega-Transect (MT)?

1:03 MF - on the negative side - I just got news a couple of days ago that there is now a road to Maca, which was about 70km from a road when we started the MT. So, things on the logging front are evolving very quickly, and it just proves that we kind of did this MT in the nick of time and that we really need to act for conservation now. 1:33

1:34 AC -set up a new preserve area?

1 :46 MF -yeah, what we did was that we came back to the US and you think about this trip that you have just taken 3,000 km through the forest and you reflect back and you think my god - we went through this place called Melong (sp?) way which wasn't known before we really explored it and we discovered naïve gorillas and giant elephants, and this beautiful clearing that is unparalleled in most of central Africa - there is a few others that is pretty good - but no others like this one - hundreds of elephants and gorillas in this thing - it has no protected status at all, and when we started looking at the map there are 10 logging concessions now that occupy what would be a perfect place for a national park - it hasn't been exploited yet - so set I have set about on a crusade to create a national park there.

AC -this is in eastern Gabon?

MF -2:54 -it is actually in central Gabon -there is a place in central Gabon that has a lot of waterfall-but it is to the south of this area - it is kind of between the rr tracks and a 60 or 70 km stretch that is completely virgin and it really is one of those places that humans haven't been as far as anyone knows really - gorillas there really have no fear of man and the elephants are gigantic - I mean tusks of a 100lbs on a side - these things are monsters - this is something we never see - so it is really unique in Gabon at this point because logging has made inroads throughout the country and the wild areas are becoming less wild and the big blocks are becoming much smaller and this is our last great opportunity to create a national park in Gabon. 3:57

AC -and how are you doing with that? How is your effort doing?

4:00 MF -we have said in our original proposal that if we are able to create this park we will have exhumed it from the flames basically. 10 logging concessions already have the logging rights for the entirety of this area. -if we can do anything immediately is to get the logging rights back into the public domain so that the govt can create a reserve. 4:36 so we are working on that. we have good contacts with the ministry of forestry there and he has given his tentative agreement creating a provisionally reserve in about 75,000 acres of the 750,000 acres that we would like to see in the nat'l park. Hopefully that will happen in the next couple of weeks. In order these logging concessions in their entirety back into the public domain, one thing we need is money. And so we have been raising money for the last 6 months, and there are many .... so far they have gotten 1.7 million dollars -we need about 3.5 to get the job done. So we are pretty happy about the rate which we are accumulating funds to do this thing. Money is always the big problem.

5:43 We have been looking at how the local people can fit into the scheme -there are very few people that live in this area at all. we have been working with the folks on the north and the south side of what would be the national park to integrate them into what we are doing already. We have got a presence on the ground. We have a grant from the USFWS and the Liz Claiborne Fund to actually put a team at this clearing now because if we waited there is a great possibility that poachers would get there and take the magic out of the place, and it could happen over night essentially. So we have a team of about 10 guys already working at this clearing 24 hours surveillance, and have had for about the last 6 months, and will have for the next 3 years until we can get park up and running - so we have made a lot of progress in 6 months considering this park was another blank spot on the map 6 months ago and loggers were making inroads very quickly. 7:02

AC -as you look this --at your own interest and you balance that with the loggers -are you feeling good about the future route of the mega transect?

7:32 MF - there is little indication that the world will relent in its insatiable appetite for depleting natural resources throughout the world. So, loggers will go on logging, mining will go on mining, oil exploitation will continue. What we need to do in places like Gabon, as a world community, is to say 200 yrs ago in the US we made a decision to start protecting lands that were unique that were important -and we set those aside as national parks, and we still have those parks today -even though this incredible wave of humanity covered the US in the last 2 centuries, we still have those places. And that is not happening in places like Gabon. It is not happening in places like DR Congo, and Republic of Congo, it didn't happen in Cameron. And it is not happening in a lot of places on this planet. So what we are saying is that we need do this -this is a good model bc we can't fight the fact that the modem world will occupy the surface of the earth -so let's take something that works let's take creation of national parks to preserve to preserve national heritage, and let's make it happen now - bc we only have a few more years. So I think that my problem is that is excruciatingly difficult to make these things happen. It is too slow and it is not big enough. So we are a few individuals in Central Africa that are trying to make it happen - a few orgs that are involved and a little bit of money from the international community - but it is 1/100 of what it needs to be - so yes, the situation is still pretty bleak. But you can't allow yourself to give up - you have to do what you can do. And I think we can do Langway (Loango ?). We did Ndoki National Park. It exists today. It is a million acres that are pristine and preserved, and will be for a very long time. We did Dzanga-Sangha and we want to do Langway but I would have hope by the yr 2005 we would had 10 times more area protected that what we have now 10:18

10:39 I have made several trips back to Africa since I have returned to the us -I have taken several trips to Longway -and I spent quite a lot of time in the woods listening to monkeys and sitting out at the clearing -listening to the parrots -recording video bc we are putting together a film that we are going to televise on nat'l TV in Gabon to show the Gabonese this treasure that they have that is about to be destroyed, so that is one of our objectives of the last 6 months is to create this film that we can show the local folks and say hey guys this is something that you own that you possess and you should save it. So we have been doing a lot of recording and just hanging out -it has been great.

11:45 I am in the forest listening to monkeys and various other things and then I am sitting at the clearing -I spent a couple of nights-we built some platforms at the clearing -so I am just sleeping out -camped out on the platforms sitting in the clearing, camped out on the platforms -listening to the night sounds and the coming of dawn and the night coming on -so it just kind of 24 hours of sound coming from that clearing

August 2002 will be back in Africa

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