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DAKAR — Cameroon has backtracked on a decision to allow industrial logging in one of the region’s least exploited rainforests, home to rare gorillas, tool-wielding chimpanzees and giant frogs.

The latest government decree overturns one signed in July that would have permitted timber extraction across 68,385 hectares (264 sq miles), or nearly half, of southwestern Cameroon’s Ebo forest, following an outcry from conservation groups and local communities.

Logging would have destroyed the habitat of a small population of gorillas that may be a new subspecies and threatened chimpanzees known for both cracking nuts and fishing for termites, according to Global Wildlife Conservation.

Without giving a reason for the U-turn, the office of Prime Minister Joseph Ngute said in a statement on Tuesday that he had been instructed by President Paul Biya to reverse the earlier decree allowing logging.

It also said Biya had ordered a delay to plans to reclassify a separate 65,000 hectares of Ebo, a move that could have opened it up to loggers.

Conservationists, researchers and local groups have repeatedly urged the Cameroonian government to suspend plans for the two long-term logging concessions in Ebo, which is also the ancestral home of more than 40 local communities.

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