The story of an encounter between man and elephant – ATIBT

In this story published on the initiative of ATIBT, Nicolas Bayol tells an impressive encounter with an elephant, 20 years ago in Gabon. February 8

 

 

February 8, 2002, in the Crystal Mountains. I am on the Haut-Abanga concession, on a mission to supervise the logging inventory teams that we have just launched with Rougier Gabon in order to improve logging planning.

 

With Emmanuel, a young Gabonese engineer trained at the Cape Esterias School, we joined our team in the forest early in the morning. I didn't have breakfast, I don't eat breakfast when I get up early on the site. The work is going well even if the team has not yet reached the targeted rhythm.

 

A little before 2 pm, we take the way back to the car. The area having already been exploited by the previous company operating on the concession, we take advantage of an old skidding track to walk more easily than on the inventory trails, which are difficult to walk in this dense and hilly forest. The elephants make the same reasoning and their traces are numerous on the track.

 

On a descent, I point out to Emmanuel a strong smell of fermentation. Emmanuel shows me the crown of an "Andok" tree that we can see about 20 meters from the trail, the wild mangoes that have fallen from the tree are rotting on the ground. Emmanuel reminds me that elephants are fond of these fruits which intoxicate them. A few seconds after passing the tree, a great noise startles us in the forest already teeming with the sounds of insects. An elephant was there, a few steps away, and we had not seen it, despite its size, camouflaged in the undergrowth. The giant of the forest, until then so discreet, pushes aside or crushes the shrubs, and the marantaceae (herbaceous plants abundant in this undergrowth). A "bushman" would certainly have felt, seen or heard the elephant, but we are finally two city dwellers, who have become forest engineers, and who will never be able to tame the forest and its inhabitants as the villagers do in this great green country, more than eighty-five percent forested.

 

We run to escape the danger, however I am not really afraid yet, I have already undergone charges of intimidation, I think that the animal has for only goal to move us away. So I start walking again after a few seconds, I was certainly wrong, maybe the rest of the story would have been different if I had had a saving fear earlier. Emmanuel didn't make the same mistake, he continued his race and left me alone behind.

 

This time it's a barking sound that resounds. And there I feel that I am not dealing with a charge of intimidation. Why, I could not say, perhaps the fact that the elephant insists and followed me or I feel his irritation in the tone of its cry.

 

So I run away, I run down the slope, still on the logging track. The elephant is there, following me, maybe getting closer, I don't know, I haven't seen him yet, I look ahead and try not to trip on the bushes. A big trunk there, in front of me, I hide behind it, press myself against the tree, try to catch my breath and listen. The elephant is there, very close, probably raising its trunk to find me thanks to its very developed sense of smell. I hear it roar, for the first time in my life I hear this dull roar by which the elephants communicate. How long do we stay there, on both sides of this immense tree. Time no longer exists in this early afternoon, the world is frozen and I can't tell if each of the sequences of this adventure lasted ten seconds or five minutes.

 

Then the elephant smells me, it was inevitable, how could it end otherwise? I just hung there for a while waiting for my smell to reach its nostrils. Its runs, I have the impression that the scene happens in slow motion and later the director of operations of Rougier Gabon will make me a humorous drawing of it, the elephant goes around the trunk, well I think, I don't know anymore, I'm in a dream? I resume the race, but how could I compete with the king of the forest in its element? It would already be difficult in open ground, but there its crushes the branches on which I stumble or that I have to step over. My only chance is that its loses sight of me, which it has very bad, but it is too close. I leave the track and try to go up the hill, it is there, always closer, irremediably closer.

 

Always in this misty halo that surrounds my mind, half-unconscious perhaps and yet paradoxically kept alert by the proximity of the danger, I fall or throw myself on the ground in a last hope to escape, I don't know. And the elephant is literally on top of me, on my back, with all the weight of its forehead. Probably it is trying to plant its tusks in my back, but its tusks are short and I kept the backpack that protects me and maybe saves me. I had also kept my machete in my hand while running, why? I could have cut myself. It is thrown beside me, as well as the map and compass I have in my other hand and my watch.

 

Did I lose consciousness? I don't think so, or not for long, but how do I know? I am stunned, or rather "stunned", I am breathless. When I regain my senses, I sit down, with difficulty, I gather my things, and I stay there, for a long time, panting and recovering from the terror I have just experienced. Then I hear a rustle of leaves in the insect hubbub, almost imperceptible, I am on the lookout, is my attacker still around? Or am I so upset that the slightest sound in this ever-noisy forest terrifies me.

 

No, there is an abnormal noise, I locate it. And there, at maybe twenty meters, or less, it is there, hidden again like a goblin who would hide from the eyes of humans, it looks at me, it nods. What does it want? How can it still react? Finally, I see it, until then I had only glimpsed a shadow. Seeing it soothes my terror a little, making it more real, less monstrous. The invisible is always more frightening. In reality, I only catch a glimpse of it through the foliage, and above all I see its eye and this so particular look. It is an "assala", a forest elephant, small compared to those of the savannah, a female probably, with very short tusks. It shakes its head from right to left as if it wanted to tell me no, don't come this way.

 

The elephant is placed on the shortest path that I should take to return to the road, I decide to move away to the opposite. First I crawl away, still stunned, I start to feel pain in my chest. I get up and walk slowly, very slowly, my leg hurts, probably a nerve that got stuck, I slip. I make a detour to make sure I don't come back to my assailant. At each rustle I shiver with terror and my pulse quickens but they are only the sounds of leaves in the wind. It takes me an hour to walk eight hundred meters back to the car. I get into the driver's seat, start the engine, and drive at a steady pace for a few dozen meters before I find the site manager's car, alerted by Emmanuel who has run to the operation site about ten kilometers away. The site manager and a few other people from the site have gone to meet me in the forest, I honk the horn, they arrive, and there, knowing that I am finally being taken care of, I collapse, I give up all effort and I finally realize what has just happened to me.

 

I was evacuated the next day to Libreville and a few days later to France, with a fractured rib and a pneumothorax. A pneumothorax that the gynecologist who observed my blurred X-ray in front of a thin neon sign, with a cigarette in his mouth, had not diagnosed. The agents of the hospital of Puy-en-Velay must still keep in memory this young patient who arrived at their home after having been attacked by an elephant, the news of the arrival of this unusual patient in my native Auvergne crossed the hospital like a powder trail.

 

After a month of convalescence, I would go back to Gabon, then to the forest. However, the day of the accident I thought I would never have the courage to go back to the African tropical undergrowth. The forest is no longer the same, it has become hostile to me, it terrorizes me at every move, it plays at scaring me. Back on the site of Babylon, every night before going to face it I sleep badly, if at all. But I don't want to give up, the forest is my job and my passion. Twice, as soon as I returned to Babylon, on the other bank of the river Abanga, I was charged again, by groups of elephants. I remember the second time especially, we hide behind an embankment, my team leader who knows the forest well is able to follow the movement of the elephants by listening to them, to feel the danger and to react by also taking into account the wind, the elephants move away, we take back the car to enter another plot, but there I do not follow the team, I had enough. Again, a second time in the day, they will be loaded and will have to flee.

 

The forest seems to be full of danger, it is a hostile environment that scares people, even Africans who live in the heart of the massifs, but by creating openings for themselves, except for the pygmies perhaps who have managed to tame it. Elephants are far from being the greatest danger in the forest, they usually run away when they hear a man coming. Snakes are almost never seen, especially if you can't see them, like me. Buffalo can be aggressive and can gore you when they are injured, gorillas sometimes attack and bite when they feel in danger. The most dangerous beings in the forest are finally the trees, whose branches, falling from several tens of meters high, can smash skulls.

 

In this Upper Abanga forest, at this time, the assalas are particularly aggressive. Before my painful encounter, our team had been chased to the staff transport truck. Elephants can be seen on the tracks between skidder passes, so they are surprisingly unfazed by the noise of the machines. Even loggers have been disturbed by the noise of their chainsaws. And Rougier Gabon's camps were regularly visited by the pachyderms, who may even stick their tusks into the plywood walls of the huts at night or pass their trunks over the terraces to grab a fruit. The fields of the workers and their families are ravaged, accidents are not uncommon, some women farmers have been attacked and injured. The only effective solution was to build fences by piling logs or dig deep ditches around the fields.

 

Why did that elephant charge me? Why didn't it trample me and walk away? Why are the elephants in this forest so aggressive? The people I talked to had various hypotheses. Perhaps it was a female elephant trying to protect her baby elephant, or perhaps it was an elephant that was drunk on fermented fruit. I don't really believe that the elephants in the area are remembering old acts of poaching, even though I once came across a carcass with cut tusks and a Babylonian had some fun trapping elephants with skidding cables. I have my own theory, which is only a theory, I do not claim to be a specialist. The marantaceous forests on the banks of the Abanga River probably attest to a significant human occupation a few decades ago, and the inhabitants then would have moved to the National Road further south. The elephants would have taken possession of the area and would have found there an abundance of food and a tranquility that would not incite them to move over long distances as their congeners often do. These elephants would have become very territorial and would defend their forest?

 

Read more…

 

Go back

Partners News

Registration opens for exhibitors at the CBFP MOP 19 Exhibition Centre

We are pleased to hereby inform you that exhibition registration for the CBFP MoP19 is open. The exhibition space offers your organization the opportunity to present your work, initiatives, projects and expertise to the participants of the MoP19. Exhibitors are able to rent a stand package at set prices with options for customization and additional equipment. To register as Exhibitor at the 19th Meeting of Parties of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP), please fill out this form online before May 30, 2022.

19th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) July 5-8, 2022, in Libreville, Gabon: Registration is open until May 20, 2022!

If you wish to attend the 19th MoP of the CBFP and related events, please register before 20th May 2022 by completing the form below and clicking on the button “register”. It will not be possible to attend the meeting without a properly completed registration procedure.

19th Meeting of the Parties, July 5-8, 2022, in Libreville, Gabon: Registration is closing on May 20, 2022!

This is a reminder that registrations for the 19th Meeting of Parties (MoP) of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership in Libreville, Gabon, from 5 to 8 July 2022 are CLOSING IN 2 DAYS. Please note, that you can only attend with a completed registration. Please register here...

Mongolia flood defence project shows the way for urban adaptation - The Green Climate Fund

Mongolia flood defence project shows the way for urban adaptation. The project incorporates infrastructural upgrades with the formation of community action groups to improve the capital’s flood resilience . A project in Mongolia, which incorporates a wide range of initiatives and aims to build the resilience of high-risk communities, is directly confronting the burden of urban climate impacts.

 

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board holds second meeting of 2022

The 32nd meeting of the GCF Board is taking place in person in Antigua and Barbuda from May 16-19. The meeting, one of four scheduled this year, follows on the heels of the first Board meeting where USD 187.7 million was approved for new climate projects and major changes to GCF’s accreditation framework were approved.  The changes aim to accelerate climate finance for developing countries and include strengthening the existing accreditation model and introducing the project-specific assessment approach (PSAA).

Expert meeting on the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products – FERN

The proposed EU Regulation on deforestation-free products aims to ensure goods cannot be placed on the EU market if they have caused deforestation, forest degradation, or violated producer country laws. The Commission released a draft proposal of the Regulation on 17 November 2021, and now the European Parliament (EP) and the Council must agree on their positions. On 24 March 2022, the EP rapporteur Luxembourgish Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Christophe Hansen of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), released his draft response.

New International Maritime Organization guidelines to combat wildlife smuggling – TRAFFIC

Global shipping to focus on bringing down the illegal networks exploiting maritime supply chains to traffic wildlife. On the 13 of May 2022, the 46th Meeting of the Facilitation Committee (FAL46) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted new ‘Guidelines for the Prevention and Suppression of the Smuggling of Wildlife on Ships Engaged in International Maritime Traffic’.

Brief Highlights Role for Human Rights-based Approach to Achieve SDG 6 - IISD

Fifty years after the 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, which put “health and sanitation” on the international agenda, ensuring water and sanitation for all “remains one of the world’s biggest challenges.” A ‘Still Only One Earth’ policy brief from IISD argues that for universal access to become a reality,

UNCCD’s Global Land Outlook Calls for “Activating” Land Restoration Agenda – IISD

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has issued the second edition of its flagship report titled, ‘Global Land Outlook: Land Restoration for Recovery and Resilience’ (GLO2). The publication outlines various future land scenarios, and highlights the potential contributions of land restoration investments to climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction, and human health, among other SDGs.

World Congress Urges Shared Responsibility Over Forests for Multiple SDGs – IISD

Delegates at the 15th meeting of the World Forestry Congress (XV WFC) called for immediate action to protect forests, forestry, and forest stakeholders as providers of nature-based solutions to climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation, hunger, and poverty. They encouraged “actions for a green, healthy and resilient future with forests” as a contribution to the SDGs, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

FAO Flagship Outlines Forest Pathways for Tackling Planetary Crises - IISD

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has launched its biennial flagship report on the state of the world’s forests (SOFO), which explores three intertwined forest pathways to achieve green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic while tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, among other “multidimensional planetary crises.”

Desertification and Drought Day Calls for New Social Contract for Nature – IISD

A high-level panel marked Desertification and Drought Day 2020 with a discussion focused on the Day’s theme, ‘Food. Feed. Fibre,” and the question, “Is it time for a new social contract for nature?” Ministers and agency heads offered recommendations for addressing vulnerabilities for land management that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and options for building back better.

The XV World Forestry Congress was held in Seoul from May 2 to 6 – ATIBT

Convening under the theme “Building a Green, Healthy and Resilient Future with Forests,” the Fifteenth meeting of the World Forestry Congress (XV WFC) sought to define the role of forests in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other major agreements, including the Global Forest Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

Ministerial call for sustainable timber at the World Forestry Congress in Seoul – ATIBT

At the end of the XV World Forestry Congress held in Seoul from May 2 to 6, 8 ministers signed a text calling for the production and consumption of sustainable wood. Sustainable production and consumption of wood promotes forest conservation, enhances the value of forests and mitigates climate change. Building and living with wood responds to an increased demand for renewable materials and provides impetus for green recovery.

The 1st edition of the Forest Conservation Job Day organized on May 6, 2022 by ERAIFT (DRC) – ATIBT

The Forest Conservation Job Day took place online, on Friday May 6th 2022. This Forest Conservation Job day, which was in its first edition, was co-organised by ERAIFT and the association of its alumni gathered within the « Réseau Africain pour le Développement Durable et Intégré (RADDI) ». The Participants to this event were former ERAIFT students and students from the 3rd and 4th Master's classes actually in training.

The ATIBT welcomes the company Gilmour & Aitken, located in Scotland

The Board of Directors of the ATIBT validated the membership application of this trading and sawing Gilmour & Aitken Ltd are suppliers and stock holders of a comprehensive range of high quality sawn and engineered hardwood and softwood timber products.   Established in 1852 and now in its 5th generation, the business prides itself on its product expertise, stock range and customer service.

COP 15 : World leaders at the Abidjan summit on desertification unanimously agree time to safeguard the future of land is now – CAN

Heads of States and governments at the fifteenth session of the Conference of Parties(COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) have made a clarion call to the international community to take urgent measures to avert loss of live and source of livelihood threatening the world today as result of the devastating effects of desertification, land degradation and drought.

Monrovia Calling – FERN

A consortium of investigative journalists in Liberia are shining a spotlight on the country’s forest sector – with some remarkable results. Starting at 4pm every Thursday, one of Liberia’s best-known radio stations, OK FM 99.5, broadcasts a live one-hour show that’s possibly the only one of its kind in the world.

Forests and Indigenous land rights will be key in Brazil’s upcoming general election – FERN

In early April 2022, I had the chance to travel to Brazil to consult with Fern’s partners and attend the yearly Free Land Camp organised by Brazil’s Articulation of Indigenous Peoples (APIB) in Brasilia. This trip gave me a snapshot of where the people with whom we work stand in this crucial year for the country.

European biomass industry confirms it is burning large amounts of “low-quality stemwood” (tree trunks) – FERN

On 5 April, the Forest Defenders Alliance published an impactful visual investigation, revealing that “many wood-burning power plants and wood pellet manufacturing plants in the EU appear to be using trees logged directly from forests, despite claims to use sawdust and other mill waste for fuel and feedstock”. Surprisingly, industry confirmed the report’s findings, proving the importance of ensuring that the EU’s renewed Renewable Energy Directive (RED) takes a strong line on which types of material should, and should not be burnt.

Parliament could still push for ambitious forest climate policy – FERN

Despite the urgency of the climate crisis and the importance of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from land use and forestry, some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Member States and private actors continue to try to downgrade climate ambition. In upcoming votes about the proposed Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation, there are hopes that the European Parliament will set a more positive course.  

State of the Forest 2021 Report presented in the COMIFAC Pavilion during the World Forestry Congress - A product of the German CBFP Facilitation

The "State of the Forests" report is a flagship product of the CBFP partners' efforts, especially of the EU, which is the main donor of OFAC.  The production of this report remains a major challenge for each CBFP Facilitation. We are there!!! The State of the Forest 2021 (SOF 2021) report is the seventh in the series published since 2005. The previous report was released in 2015 at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris.

World Forestry Congress: “Scaling up forest landscape restoration in the central Africa” at COMIFAC-ECCAS Pavilion Initiatives

Seoul (Republic of Korea) World Forest Congress, 5 Mai 2022 – at COMIFAC-ECCAS Pavilion Initiatives, a special session was organized on “Accelerating and Scaling up forest landscape restoration under the Bonn Challenge and AFR100 in the central Africa”. The Session was moderated by the German CBFP Facilitation and had as panelists IUCN and the African Union (NEPAD/AFR100).

IUCN Africa Protected Area Congress at the heart of the COMIFAC-ECCAS Pavilion Initiative at the 15th World Forestry Congress

Seoul (Republic of Korea) World Forest Congress, 5 Mai 2022 – IUCN Africa Protected Area Congress was presented by Mr. KARANGWA Charles Regional Head of Land Systems and Country Representative, IUCN Rwanda, in a special hybrid session in the COMIFAC-ECCAS Pavilion.

Helping forest and farm producers through hard times – FAO

Welfare support for forest and farm producers has become even more important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it wrecked economies and livelihoods across the globe. But the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) has stepped up to the plate. Over the course of 2021, more than 56,000 forest and farm producers in Africa, Asia and Latin America received food aid, hygiene products or government social protection schemes thanks to the work of FFF-supported forest and farm producer organizations (FFPOs).

West Africa exchange visits to empower women in fisheries value chains – FAO

Women fish processors and sellers learn new techniques from their colleagues in order to make their jobs safer and their products more competitive 4 April, Abidjan/Dakar/Praia/Rome - The FAO Coastal Fisheries Initiative in West Africa (CFI-WA) has organized three exchange visits aimed at strengthening the role of women in fisheries value chains in Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal.

As forests fall, Zambians race to find alternatives to logging – GEF

Located in Zambia’s North-Western Province, the greater Kafue National Park and West Lunga ecosystem complex was once home to an abundance of ancient rosewood trees and a host of other endemic and endangered species. Now, aerial views reveal slabs of fallen trees peppering black holes in the green forest canopy. Fenced clearings open up to piles of orange rosewood, stacked high in the grounds of a sawmill

WFC - Side Event CBFP/CAFI: Saving our planet’s second-largest lung – How the Congo Basin contributes to protecting global climate and threatened biodiversity and how it should be supported

Join this discussion on Calls for a “Fair Deal” that addresses the protection, sustainable use, and good governance of the central African Forest ecosystems of the Congo basin by the riparian countries of COMIFAC in exchange for an adequate share of international climate and biodiversity funds. Wednesday 4th May 2022, SEOUL, 5:30 PM KST - 7:00 PM KST Where:  Room. E5. Third floor.

Exhibition at MOP19: registration will be open soon!

We are pleased to hereby inform you that exhibition registration for the CBFP MoP19 will be open soon. The exhibition space offers your organization the opportunity to present your work, initiatives, projects and expertise to the participants of the MoP19. Exhibitors will be able to rent a stand package at set prices with options for customization and additional equipment.

Thousands of pastoralists seek refuge in Waza National Park, Cameroon

Our investigation found that at the height of the clashes between fishers and pastoralists on 9 December, Shuwa Arab elders consulted each other and contacted Park guards by phone before deciding to enter the Park. The following day, Shuwa Arab men, women and children walked 20 km to the centre of the Park, continuing 2 days later to a nearby waterhole. There they were initially summoned by the Park warden to leave the Park but allowed to stay to recover from their journey. After 1 week, pastoralists continued through the inundated part of the Park to the north-east where they stayed until 20 January, when all but two of the 17 groups left the Park. The Park offered safety for the pastoralists, but the conditions were harsh for families and livestock, resulting in considerable loss of sheep and donkeys; three cattle were predated by lions.