Batouala

 

Photographs from the rainforest of Cameroon with members of the Baka tribe.

Tito West

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The name Batoaula comes from a 1921 novel written by René Maran, a French writer born in Martinique, about a fictional kingdom in the Ubangi-Shari region of what today is the Central African Republic near the border with Cameroon.

This region is home to the Baka Pygmies, a hunter-gatherer tribe whose members are spread throughout several countries, mostly Cameroon, The Congo, DRC and Gabon. The history of the Baka is rife with tragedy and persecution. It was here, along the coast of Cameroon, where Europeans — mostly notably the Portuguese — began engaging in the slave trade as early as the mid-1400s.

However, the greatest threat facing the Baka today is that of the rapid deforestation taking place across the entire Congo Basin. Logging, both legal and illegal, are robbing the Baka of the forest they call home and depend upon for their lives.

 
 
Baka Pygmy Trackers at a camp along the Boumba River in Southeast Cameroon -  Tito West 2016

Baka Pygmy Trackers at a camp along the Boumba River in Southeast Cameroon - Tito West 2016

 
Congolese Equatorial Rainforest, Boumba River, Cameroon -  Tito West, 2016

Congolese Equatorial Rainforest, Boumba River, Cameroon - Tito West, 2016

 
Carving of a Forest Elephant, Cameroon -  Tito West 2016

Carving of a Forest Elephant, Cameroon - Tito West 2016

Logging truck with it's cargo heading back to the port of Douala , Cameroon -  Tito West 2016

Logging truck with it's cargo heading back to the port of Douala , Cameroon - Tito West 2016

 
Baka Pygmies paddling a dugout along the Boumba River, southeast Cameroon -  Tito West 2016

Baka Pygmies paddling a dugout along the Boumba River, southeast Cameroon - Tito West 2016

 
Western Lowland Gorilla Skull in the rainforest of Cameroon -  Tito West 2016

Western Lowland Gorilla Skull in the rainforest of Cameroon - Tito West 2016

Front track of a Western Lowland Gorilla on a logging road, Cameroon -  Tito West 2016

Front track of a Western Lowland Gorilla on a logging road, Cameroon - Tito West 2016

 
 
Mac, a Central Chimpanzee at a refuge center outside of Doauala Cameroon. Mac was brought to the refuge as an infant after being rescued from a poacher’s camp. His parents were killed by the poachers, but his was life was spared only because of the high value placed on live infant primates on the black market. -  Tito West 2016

Mac, a Central Chimpanzee at a refuge center outside of Doauala Cameroon. Mac was brought to the refuge as an infant after being rescued from a poacher’s camp. His parents were killed by the poachers, but his was life was spared only because of the high value placed on live infant primates on the black market. - Tito West 2016

 
A young, rain-soaked Baka Pygmy boy with the top of a Chimpanzee Skull. The Baka believe that in times of drought, which do occur in the rainforest, that placing a Chimpanzee skull in water will bring on the rains. However, the superstition is considered taboo among the tribe due to the fact that it contains remnants of a much darker canabilistic chapter in the history of the region.

A young, rain-soaked Baka Pygmy boy with the top of a Chimpanzee Skull. The Baka believe that in times of drought, which do occur in the rainforest, that placing a Chimpanzee skull in water will bring on the rains. However, the superstition is considered taboo among the tribe due to the fact that it contains remnants of a much darker canabilistic chapter in the history of the region.