Chinko is a unique area that spans a vast 17,600 km2 where savannah and tropical forest collide. These mixed habitats have resulted in an extraordinary diversity of wildlife. Even more miraculous is that despite decades of elephant and bushmeat poaching, cattle and herdsman who move through the area, and political insecurity over the years, remnant populations of most key species here have persisted and the ecosystem has remained intact, making this one of the largest ecosystems with the greatest conservation potential in all of central Africa.
Chinko is home to as many as ten primate species, including a significant population of chimpanzees; five felid species including the highly vulnerable Central African lion, leopard, serval, the rare golden cat, and 19 other carnivore species like the African wild dog and nine mongoose species (the most documented for any one protected area in the world). Twenty-three species of even-toed ungulates including the iconic Lord Derby’s eland and Bongo have been documented; and both forest and savannah elephants exist here, making this one of the last holdouts for elephants in the country. A minimum of 400 bird species have also been identified, and it is believed that as many as 600 could exist.
With at least 80 confirmed large- and medium-sized mammal species and over 400 bird species, Chinko is also home to the only population of savannah wildlife left in the Central African Republic.
Chinko is home to the only viable population of savannah species, like African wild dog, lion, Eastern Giant eland, Lelwel hartebeest and Defassa waterbuck left in the Central African Republic.
One of the last pristine areas deep within the Central African Republic, Chinko comprises a mosaic of undisturbed wooded savannah and rainforest, which allows for an incredible richness of species. The convergence of the two different ecosystems creates a unique area where species and habitats overlap.
A massive inventory of pictures from more than 450 camera sites and more than 15,000 camera-days have provided photographic proof of species presence. This research has documented more than 11 primate species including chimpanzees, both forest and savannah elephants, 23 even-toed ungulates, five ant-eating mammals, 24 carnivores including the endangered African wild dog, lion, nine different species of mongoose as well as more than 400 bird species.
Chinko is most well-known for the statuesque Eastern giant eland, secretive bongo, chimpanzees, giant forest hogs, and six different forest duiker species. Interestingly, the yellow-backed and white-bellied duiker are found in Chinko’s savannah-dominated area instead of their traditional forest habitats.
Since the 1980s, Chinko has lost three mega-herbivores. At one time, Chinko offered superb habitat for Kordofan giraffes, western black rhinoceros, and northern square-lipped rhinoceros. However, heavy poaching resulted in the extinction of these three species, as well as a dramatic reduction in the numbers of African savannah and African forest elephants. The African savannah species now seems to be locally extinct, while a few hundred forest elephant remain.
The Eastern giant eland, which is one of Chinko’s most iconic species, requires urgent intervention and a special project has been devised to collar them for a better understanding of their movements as well as future capture and breeding.
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