Timber exploitation in Cameroon was begun by German colonizers, and grew rapidly after the Second World War. In the 1990s timber export reached its peak. In 2002 annual production was around 2 million cubic metres over a surface area of some 300,000 hectares. The average price of the timber fluctuated around 150 per cubic metre, and was destined for the luxury goods market due to its high quality. The weakness of State controls on the timber trade meant that exporting was problem free. If from the start of the 1900s deforestation was totally unchecked, and was interested only in felling as many trees in the least time possible, today the exploitation of forests is targeting only the most expensive. Six varieties account for nearly 80 percent of timber exploitation: The Ayous (Triplochition scleroxylon), Sapele or Sapelli (Entandrophragma cylindricum), Azob (Lophira alata), Limba or yellow pine (Terminalia superba), Tali (Erythrophleum ivorense) and Iroko (Chlorophora spp.). Another particularly exploited species for its economic value is the Moabi (Baillonella toxisperma), which is a vitally important tree to women forest dwellers due to its versatility in providing medicines, and other subsistence goods. It is also a sacred tree.
From the days of colonization until now almost all the timber felled in Cameroon has been exported to Europe. The main importing nations between 2000 and 2005 were France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Between 1990 and 2005, Cameroon lost 13.4% of its forest cover or around 3,300,000 hectares . A report from the European Union released in 2015 denounces the many irregularities of timber industry in Cameroon. None of the companies operating in the country have gathered all the documentation necessary to be operating in Cameroon rainforest . For instance, two French timber multinationals, Rougier and Pallisco respetively own 625 253 ha et 388 949 ha whereas according to Cameroon law forest properties cannot exceed 200 000 ha. Both companies, has many other operating in Cameroon, have been granted FSC certification which questions the accuracy of such labelling.
Cameroon's tropical forest is home to a great diversity of ecosystems that are critically threatened by the timber exploiting industry and transport and processing infrastructure that goes with it. Even the removal of just a small number of tree species causes severe disruptions to the affected ecosystems. Another side effect of forest exploitation has been the development of a large-scale trade in bushmeat. While this environmental destruction is a loss for all mankind, the first to suffer are the local communities of indigenous Bantus and Pygmies. Both depend on the forests ecology, not only for their food but also for the collection of raw materials, the production of natural medicines, and the key role that the forest plays in maintaining traditional practices and cultures. The loss of their territorial sovereignty affected and diminished access to these resources, causing an increase in poverty, not just monetary but in terms of the satisfaction of basic needs such as food, territorial and socio-cultural sovereignty. These fundamental human rights are threatened by the serious changes provoked by the development of forestry exploitation.