Ituri Forest Pygmies | Who Rules the Forest? National Geographic Magazine: Artisanal Logging by Bantus Creating Holes in the Ituri Forest | DR Congo

Artisanal Logging by Bantus Creating Holes in the Ituri Forest | Congo

Small loggers, miners and the resultant villages are killing the Pygmie’s forest like little cancers.

From my journal:

We leave early the next morning to photograph artisanal logging.  Eric did a map of all the concessions impinging on the Ituri and John said that logging concessions just represented 10-15 percent of the actual logging, because small operators were doing so much of it.  So we are going to see those small operators at the edge of the forest proper before it dies out well above Beni.  Yesterday we watched folks with one chain saw, cut down and cut solid planks of mahogany… field stripping as it were… the 2inch by 12inch by 15 foot planks of solid mahogany were head loaded out… each plank brought the logger one dollar…

So, today it is just guys with long saws… two on top, two on bottom… the trunk is suspended on a platform and the huge squared off trunk is cut into nine equal segments… the mud houses around here are supported by solid mahogany 3 X 3’s… again, 15 feet long… 1 dollar.

Then we proceed down the road to Beni.  John and Eric have caught up with us on rental motos… one moto has such a bald tire in front that Eric went over three times on the trip from Epulu to Mambasa.  What follows has to be the worst road I have ever seen a 4WD get thru.  Medar uses techniques I have never seen before and NEVER looses his cool.  We can be in a mud hole 5 feet deep and at a 45 degree angle and he is smiling and spinning the tires to dry out the hole, then slowly working his way back and forth until we get out.  We hit three impossible holes that take about an hour each to dig out of.  There are two drivers on the trip because they know they will be using picks and shovels and bailing water out of holes and jamming bark under the tires to get out… they actually could learn a few things from the Australians I was with a few months ago, but this is hands down the best driving through the most miserable conditions I have ever seen.  John has enough sense to walk some of the really bad patches… Eric and I are caught in the car for one extended “Disney amusement” style ride… All I remember is that the car was on its side, and that side was scraping along the embankment… Eric was trying to keep my case of cameras from flying off the seat and at the same time the rear door was flying open from the horrendous vibrations.  Eric had to shove the cameras in place, jump back to the door and slam it and then come back to the cameras… I remember him having to do that three times.

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