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By Morgan Erickson-Davis
Africa's Congo Basin is home to the second largest rainforest on the planet. But according to a new study, this may soon not be the case. It finds that at current rates of deforestation, all primary forest will be gone by the end of the century.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) in the U.S. who analyzed satellite data collected between 2000 and 2014. Their results were published Wednesday in Science Advances. It reveals that the Congo Basin lost around 165,000 square kilometers (approximately 64,000 square miles) of forest during their study period.
Tropical tree cover decreased by an area the size of Bangladesh—a total of 39 million acres. That amounts to 40 football fields worth of trees cut every minute of last year in a devastating blow to biodiversity and the global climate.
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By Daisy Dunne
Just over a year ago, scientists announced the discovery of the world's largest intact tropical peatland in a remote part of the Congo's vast swampy basin.
The Cuvette Centrale peatlands stretch across an area of central Africa that is larger than the size of England and stores as much as 30 billion tonnes of carbon.
By Lee Fang
The leaked draft of a presidential memorandum Donald Trump is expected to sign within days suspends a 2010 rule that discouraged American companies from funding conflict and human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through their purchase of "conflict minerals."
Munganga Nzonga Jacques, 26, died Oct. 4 in an area in the Tshivanga region of the park, an area previously believed to be safe for the gorillas, showing the dangers conservationists face in unstable regions, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) said.
Jacques is the second ranger to be killed in the park in the last six months. Rebel groups shot and killed park ranger Oscar Byamungu Mianziro back in March.
Park rangers carrying out an anti-poaching patrol in Kahuzi-Biega National Park.A.J.Plumptre / WCS
"We are very concerned about these increased threats to the rangers and their families, and to the protection of these animals," Andrew Plumptre, WCS senior conservation scientist for Africa, said in a statement.
Grauer's gorilla—a subspecies of eastern gorilla, the world's largest ape—are confined to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They were listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species back in September after their population dropped 77 percent.
In 1998, it was estimated that 17,000 Grauer's gorillas lived in the forests of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Now, fewer than 3,800 of these gorillas still live in the wild, according to a report from the WCS, Flora and Fauna International and the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature.
The main cause of the decline is hunting for bushmeat and civil unrest, which is taking place around villages and mining camps that have been established by armed groups deep in the forests in eastern DR Congo.
"The civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to the wide availability of arms and created a plethora of militia groups who control different territories in the east of the country," Andrew Plumptre, senior conservation scientist for the WCS Africa Program, told PLoS One. "This has been terrible for conservation of its wildlife."