Forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) are among the many species threatened by logging within the Atama palm oil plantation concession. (Photo by Carlos Drews / WWF)
In December of last year, a small group of government officials took a long arduous trip to visit the site of a remote palm oil plantation in the Republic of the Congo. The Atama palm oil concession, covering 470,000 hectares (1,815 square miles) of forest — an area larger than Rhode Island — is billed as the largest in the Congo Basin.
But when the officials arrived, accompanied by a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) employee, they got a surprise: the plantation site appeared to have largely been abandoned.
According to Ludovic Miaro, the Regional Palm Oil Program Coordinator at WWF-Africa who was on the trip, only 700 hectares (2.7 square miles) had been planted, and most of this was in a bad state. The company had said it would develop 180,000 hectares (695 square miles). The plantation was practically empty of personnel, including the manager, who the officials were told were “on vacation.”