The creation of the Messok Dja National Park in north-western Congo-Brazzaville is threatening the Baka pygmies, the community has said in a letter to the European Commission, one of the project’s main funders.
The Baka say they are already banned from entering the forest to hunt for food.
“The forest is our home. We rely on the forest to live… But you people have stolen our forest. What are we going to do? How will we survive?” the letter says.
It pleads with European officials to visit the Baka before providing more money for the plan.
In a statement the European Commission says it has not heard from the Baka people directly, that it is in touch with the authorities in Congo-Brazzaville and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which is also funding the park, and that it has asked them to make sure that all people affected and all those who live in that area are properly consulted.
However, Survival International, the organisation championing the Baka’s case and which posted a copy of their letter online, says the European Commission and WWF have known for a while that local people oppose the project set up to protect elephants.
Survival International researcher Fiore Longo told BBC Newsday:
“The truth is the forest has been managed for generations by the Baka who depend and rely on the forest – it’s not a coincidence that the most bio-diverse forests in the world are the ones where indigenous people live – and of course they don’t have any interest in over hunting or poaching.”