This is the first plant new to science to be officially named by scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew since the beginning of 2022. Discovered in the Ebo forest massif in Cameroon, the endemic species is called Uvariopsis dicaprio. A name formulated in homage to the famous American film actor Leonardo Dicaprio, for his role in the cancellation of the exploitation project of the Ebo rainforest.
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 organizations (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, the hero of the film Titanic 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 authorize the exploitation of the Ebo forest, although it is not yet officially converted into a national park, as desired by environmental NGOs.
For Greenpeace, the cancellation of the Ebo forest exploitation project is only one step in a long process. The NGO wants to see the formalization 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 authorizes him to ratify the agreement on the conservation of gorillas and their habitats, adopted on October 26, 2007 in Paris, France.