This nirvana for nature-lovers is situated in the heart of the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, harbouring approximately 22,000 western lowland gorillas, elusive forest elephants and approximately 444 bird species.
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.
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
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