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.

African Parks entered into a 25-year-long agreement in 2010 with the 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. Odzala has around 130,000 people living in the periphery of the park, who survive off the natural resources the area provides. Because of limited opportunities in the region, bushmeat poaching remains a major threat, where 11,000 snares and more than 46 tonnes of bushmeat were seized in 2018. This is a major concern for the park’s wildlife, especially Odzala’s western lowland gorillas of which 10% 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. Affecting human behaviour takes time, but Odzala’s future rests on our interventions, and ensuring that communities value, and therefore truly benefit from the park’s existence.

Odzala-Kokoua Highlights

  • African Parks, in partnership with the Ministry of Forest Economy, Sustainable Development and Environment, assumed management of Odzala-Kokoua National Park in 2010.
  • In 2018, Odzala eco-guards confiscated 48 tonnes of bushmeat and removed 11,000 snares.
  • 16 forest elephants are being monitored with satellite collars, and preliminary data are showing that since the introduction of effective law enforcement, many forest elephants have moved back into the park area.
  • A gorilla habituation programme, carried out by the research and monitoring team, is yielding positive results that will benefit future tourism opportunities in the park.
  • The hospital and mobile clinic delivered medical care to 1,870 people in 2018 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, 30,000 of the cocoa plants are now producing fruits, providing an alternative revenue stream to illegal bushmeat poaching.
  • The park has three upmarket tourist lodges, Lango, Mboko and Ngaga Camps, which are directly managed by Odzala Discovery Camps contributing 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