In southwestern Gabon, the old-growth forest stretches hundreds of miles. One January morning I disembark from a narrow boat on the shore of the Ngounié River with a few employees of Olam, a Singapore-based agribusiness company. Following elephant tracks, we plunge into the forest. We pass towering, ancient trees, chimpanzee nests, piles of day-old gorilla dung. Monkeys scamper overhead. A young Olam ranger yanks off his boots and climbs barefoot up a trunk, returning with handfuls of pink, plumlike fruits.
Wandering farther we find wild mangoes, kola nuts, bark that smells of garlic. At a sun-dappled clearing, fish splash in a watering hole. The trees around it have been scratched by elephant tusks.
To stand here in the slanting sunlight and imagine all this being razed is heart-stopping.