Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Congo is one of Africa’s oldest national parks, it was designated in 1935 and it received Biosphere Reserve status in 1977. Covering an expansive 13,500 km2 area, Odzala lies in the heart of the Congo Basin. The basin is the second largest rainforest in the world, spanning more than two million square kilometers across six countries and accounts for 18 percent of the world's remaining rainforest. The biological diversity and endemism are extraordinary here, especially considering that humans have occupied the area for over 50,000 years. Today, the basin provides clean water, food and shelter to more than 75 million people. Despite the appearance of this breathtaking landscape, Odzala has had its share of ups and downs. Conservation efforts were very limited during the Congo Civil War from 1997 to 1999; several Ebola outbreaks threatened the gorilla population and led to the park being neglected, and victim to high levels of poaching for several years; and tourism was all but non-existent. ⠀

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 such a park. Bushmeat poaching here has been and continues to be a significant threat, with almost 36,000 snares removed in the last year alone.  This is a major concern for Odzala’s western lowland gorillas, of which 20 percent of the remaining global population area found in the park. Odzala is a vast wilderness, but the threats are many, and the survival of Congo’s elephants and gorillas, and the long-term future of this historic park depend on our intervention.

Ivory and bushmeat poaching remain a constant threat, but with over 100 eco-guards patrolling the 13,500 km² park African Parks is working to protect the parks’s iconic wildlife. We have recruited, trained and deployed many new rangers to monitor the salt licks where animals congregate. This not only deters poaching but habituates wildlife to human presence, boosting the park’s tourism appeal.

By working closely with local communities and implementing innovative solutions to curb poaching, including mobile healthcare units for surrounding communities and gorilla habituation programs to increase tourism, these projects are yielding impressive results for the long-term sustainability of the park.
 

Highlights

  • Rangers in Odzala were able to arrest a high-profile elephant poacher in 2016, and thanks to collaboration with the Mbombo village, accomplices were also arrested and handed over to authorities.
  • Central Africa is at the centre of the bushmeat crisis where snares and poaching are rampant, in 2017 Odzala confiscated 32 tonnes of bushmeat and 15,977 rounds of ammunition
  • Wildlife populations are showing signs of recovery, 12 forest elephants are being monitored with satellite collars. 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 mobile clinic completed its third year in 2017, delivering treatment to 900 people 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, contributing needed revenue for the park and local communities. .
  • A female eco-monitor has been trained in animal care for confiscated or injured wildlife to ensure their survival.

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