But now the contraction in the Chinese economy has paused the illegal logging in the Outamba-Kilimi national park – more than 1,100 square km of park protected by 27 unarmed rangers.
“No Chinese men are coming here anymore, and they’re the only people to come here and help us by buying what we cut,” said Ishmael Sessay, who has been harvesting timber from Sierra Leone’s oldest park since last year.
Logging for domestic use is allowed, but the government says logging in the park goes far beyond what is needed to satisfy home demand, and it does not have the resources to stop it.
“I feel pain in my heart when I see this forest cut,” said Musa Kamara, who worked as a ranger in the park from 1981 to 2018.
In a related development, Nigeria is facing life without oil revenue as oil prices, now around $20 a barrel, have already skidded to the zero point.