The Upper Guinea forest ecosystem, which includes portions of the West African country of Guinea, once covered an estimated 420,000 square kilometers. Centuries of human activity have resulted in the loss of nearly 70 percent of the original forest cover. The remaining Upper Guinea forest is restricted to a number of isolated patches that are refuges for the region's unique species, including the chimpanzee and pygmy hippopotamus. One of these isolated patches is the Pic de Fon classified forest in Guinea.
Rio Tinto Mining and Exploration Limited, a division of Rio Tinto, is currently prospecting for iron ore within the Pic de Fon. Given the potential for high biodiversity within the Pic de Fon, Rio Tinto entered into an agreement with CI to assess the region's biodiversity, as well as the existing and potential socio-economic threats to and opportunities for conservation in the Pic de Fon. This partnership was formed in the spirit of providing significant gains for biodiversity conservation, the communities that rely on resources within the region, and the government of Guinea.
Completed biodiversity assessment: A terrestrial biological survey, conducted in partnership with CI's Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) and West Africa program, was completed in November and December 2002, to examine sites within Rio Tinto's concession in the Pic de Fon. During the RAP, nearly 800 species were recorded, including seven species new to science and 11 threatened species, such as the West African chimpanzee and Sierra Leone Prinia. These findings will feed into Rio Tinto's baseline studies for its Environmental Impact Assessment.
Conducted threats and opportunities assessment: Also in November and December 2002, CI conducted a socio-economic threats and opportunities assessment on the region. Several threats were identified, including bushmeat hunting and unsustainable agricultural practices.
Developing regional land-use plan: Building from the findings of these assessments, an initial biodiversity action plan has been developed. From this, we will launch a second phase of the project in spring 2004, in alliance with Rio Tinto and other local and regional partners. The aim of the alliance will be to develop an integrated regional land-use planning process in Forest Guinea, including the Pic de Fon and surrounding areas, benefiting biodiversity conservation, industry, the communities that rely on resources within the region and the government of Guinea.