A strip of red cloth signifies that the owner of a grove of oil palm trees has protected them with curses, and that misfortune will befall would-be thieves or trespassers. The belief in witchcraft and the use of spiritual attacks, defense and protection are an accepted reality in the country.
Historically, taboos around sacred forests where Vodoun (Voodoo) spirits or deities are believed to dwell, or where fetishes are found, had the effect of preserving forest ecosystems. However, the erosion of traditional values through modernisation, the growth of Christianity, population pressures, fuel wood demand and a period of government-mandated destruction have caused tremendous forest loss. A handful of grassroots NGOs are now reviving traditional beliefs and once again harnessing them to forest protection and expansion, alongside education about the importance of forests and the development of livelihood alternatives that reduce pressure on the natural environment.