“Chinese merchants [in the port city of Douala] pay people to go into the forest, harvest the tree and bring it back to them,” said Nana, who led the survey to assess the status of African zebrawood (Microberlinia bisulcata) and other threatened species in the forest, which covers an area of around 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles).
The price of a cubic meter (equivalent to 1 metric ton) has risen to $600, from around $300 in 2018. Loggers are paid up to 100,000 CFA francs (around $180) per tree. The illegal loggers only saw off around 40-50% of each tree they fell, leaving the rest to rot.
“It’s just a huge waste,” Nana said. “All standing trees we identified last year have been cut.”