By Boris Ngounou, Afrik21

An evergreen tree native to Cameroon’s tropical Ebo forest has been given the scientific name Uvariopsis dicaprio, in honour of Leorardo DiCaprio, champion for anti-logging in the Ebo Forest, and is the first new plant species to be described in 2022.

New tree species: Uvariopsis dicaprio named in honour of Leonardo DiCaprio. Image credit: New Scientist | Lorna MacKinnon

New tree species: Uvariopsis dicaprio named in honour of Leonardo DiCaprio. Image credit: New Scientist | Lorna MacKinnon

In a publication published in the scientific journal PeerJ, scientists from the Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew in southwest London (the capital of Great Britain), announce the discovery of a tree, which was previously unknown to science. It is a small tropical evergreen tree with bright yellow flowers growing on its trunk. This endemic species grows in a small area of the Ebo forest massif, which straddles the Central and Littoral regions of Cameroon.

Kew botanists decided to name this tree species Uvariopsis dicaprio, a scientific name that serves two functions. The first is to make it possible to assess the risk of extinction of this tree. Also, the scientific name Uvariopsis dicaprio is a tribute to the famous American movie actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio. “We believe his role was crucial in stopping the exploitation of the Ebo forest,” says Kew’s Dr Martin Cheek.

Leonardo DiCaprio and the halt to the Ebo Forest logging project

Intervening in 2020 following international experts and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who had written a letter to the Cameroonian government to document the precious animal and plant species threatened with extinction by a logging project planned for 68 000 hectares in Ebo, DiCaprio had initiated a campaign on social networks to his millions of subscribers. And a few weeks after this action, the presidency of the Republic of Cameroon instructed the stop of plans to authorise the exploitation of the Ebo forest, although it is not yet officially converted into a national park, as desired by environmental NGOs.

Read also-CAMEROON: Ebo rainforest logging project cancelled

For Greenpeace, the cancellation of the Ebo forest exploitation project is only one step in a lengthy process. The NGO wants to see the formalisation of a mechanism for sustainable conservation of this forest. “The Cameroonian government’s decision to suspend the Ebo forest exploitation project is good, but we should not stop there. This is just a first step. We need to think about a special and sustainable status for this region to preserve its biodiversity while contributing to the local and national economy,” said Sylvie Djacbou, forest officer at Greenpeace Africa.

Thus, other international NGOs have asked the Cameroonian government to reconsider its 2006 decision to classify the Ebo forest as a national park. This hope is still valid, since on July 20, 2020, the President of the Republic of Cameroon promulgated the law that authorises him to ratify the agreement on the conservation of gorillas and their habitats, adopted on October 26, 2007, in Paris, France.

Read more