Chinko is situated in the Central African Republic (CAR) and is a unique area that spans a vast 19,846 km2 where savannah and tropical forest collide. These mixed habitats have resulted in an extraordinary diversity of wildlife. What is even more remarkable is that despite decades of rampant poaching, political instability and cattle and herdsman moving through the area, the ecosystem has largely remained intact and remnant populations of key species have persisted. With at least 80 confirmed large- and medium-sized mammal species and over 400 bird species, Chinko harbors the only viable population of savanna wildlife left in the CAR and is one of the largest ecosystems with the greatest conservation potential in all of Central Africa.
As one of the last pristine areas deep within the Central African Republic, Chinko is comprised of a mosaic of undisturbed wooded savanna 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 camera trap pictures taken over more than 15,000 camera-days from over 450 sites have provided photographic proof of species presence. This research has documented at least 11 primate species (including the endangered central chimpanzee subspecies), both forest and savannah elephant species, 23 even-toed ungulates, five ant-eating mammals, 24 carnivores including the endangered African wild dog, lion, and nine different species of mongoose– the most documented for any one protected area in the world.
Both forest and savannah elephants exist here, making this one of the last holdouts for elephants in the country as well as one of the only protected areas in the world where both species coexist. There are six different forest duiker species present. Interestingly, the yellow-backed and white-bellied duiker are often found in Chinko’s savannah-dominated area instead of their traditional forest habitats.
Over 400 bird species have also been identified, and it is believed that as many as 600 could exist, given the habitat mosaic.
Civil and political unrest in the region was a major contributing factor to Chinko having lost three mega-herbivores. At one time, Chinko offered superb habitat for critically endangered Kordofan giraffes, western black rhinoceros, and northern white rhinoceros. However, heavy poaching resulted in the local extinction of these three species, as well as a dramatic reduction in the numbers of savanna and forest elephants.
The vulnerable Lord Derby 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 interventions.
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