Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Congo is one of Africa’s oldest national parks; designated in 1935 it received Biosphere Reserve status in 1977. Covering an expansive 13,500 km2 area, Odzala lies in the heart of the Congo Basin, the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon. The Congo Basin spans more than two million square kilometres across six countries and accounts for 18% of the world's remaining rainforest. Humans have occupied the area for over 50,000 years, yet it is still one of the most biologically diverse and species rich areas on the planet, and the basin delivers clean water, food and shelter to more than 75 million people.

In 2010, African Parks entered into a 25-year-long agreement with the Republic of the Congo’s Ministry of Forest Economy, Sustainable Development and Environment to protect this globally significant park. Odzala’s expansive landscape, remoteness and dense habitat are all factors that contribute towards the challenges of managing this landscape. Around 12,000 people live in the periphery of the park, and survive off the natural resources the area provides. Because of limited opportunities in the region, bushmeat poaching remains a major threat, where 14,500 snares and more than 50 tonnes of bushmeat were seized in 2019. This is a major concern for the park’s wildlife, especially Odzala’s western lowland gorillas of which a significant portion of the remaining global population are found in the park.

Odzala’s future sits precariously on the urgent need to unlock the park’s value to communities who live in and around the park and are the main stakeholders, and whose actions will determine if this park persists long into the future. This is why our work focuses on a multi-pronged strategy of trying to protect the park from poaching with an enhanced eco-guard team and other law enforcement techniques, while rolling out several community projects from compensating for human-wildlife conflict, to investing in sustainable livelihoods with farming projects and capacity building activities. Changing human behaviour takes time, but Odzala’s future rests on our interventions, and ensuring that communities benefit from, and therefore truly value the parks existence.

Odzala-Kokoua Highlights

  • In 2019, Odzala eco-guards confiscated 50 tonnes of bushmeat and removed 14,500 snares.
  • More than 20 forest elephants are being monitored with satellite collars, allowing park management to view their habitat use and ranges and how best to deploy eco-guards in the field.
  • The research and monitoring team is carrying out gorilla habituation and health-monitoring programmes. It is hoped this will provide future tourism opportunities in the park.
  • The hospital and mobile clinic delivered medical care to over 2,000 people in 2019 who cannot afford or access medical care in this remote corner of the Congo.
  • A livelihood diversification project has planted 40,000 cocoa seedlings outside the park and seen the installation of over 70 beehives, providing alternative livelihoods for people.
  • Odzala has three upmarket tourist lodges, Lango, Mboko and Ngaga Camps, which are directly managed by Odzala Discovery Camps and which contribute much needed revenue to the park and local communities. 

Partners

Odzala-Kokoua National Park is managed by the Odzala Fondation – a partnership between African Parks and the Congolese government. African Parks took over the management of Odzala-Kokoua in November 2010 under the terms of the partnership agreement with the Government of the Republic of Congo.

Partners