Harrowing Tales From a Botanist
As civil war raged on in the Congo, there was nothing protecting the unique, thriving Congolese forests – except for one man. Corneille Ewango, a botanist, had lived on the Okapi Reserve for years when civil war broke out. As the reserve’s offices were looted and the area ran rampant with murder, disease, rape, and complete destruction, Ewango stood by his forest and its enumerable species. The reserve is home to the Mbuti Pygmies, along with over 700 species of plants, many of which are unique to the Okapi Reserve, and numerous species of wildlife, many of which are endangered or unique to the area (like the Okapi, a short-necked forest giraffe). Though most of the Reserve’s workers fled the area or were murdered themselves, Ewango and a band of Pygmies faced the soldiers and rioters alone. He distributed his research in hidden spots throughout the forests and secretly stowed seeds from endangered plant species in the homes of friends and family. He simply knew that if he did not do something to protect this forest, it would be destroyed like the rest of his country. His work single-handedly saved one of the most abundant, lush forests in the world – and we need as many of those as we can get, seeing as the destruction of rainforests is imminent. I’m pretty sure Ewango deserves a round of applause for a complete eco-win!