Cross-border conservation in Gabon and Congo

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Congo

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Gabon

Signboard in Gamba with WWF name, signaling the beginning of a protected area where there are elephants. Gabon.
© WWF CARPO / Peter Ngea

Summary

In an effort to improve cross-border management of protected areas of the Congo Basin, Gabon and The Republic of Congo are working together in the Gamba-Conkouatie Forest Landscape area. This includes the Gamba complex of protected areas and the Conkouati-Douli National Park in the Republic of Congo, which are home to elephants, Western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, hippos and many other species. Main threats to the landscape’s biodiversity are unsustainable logging practices, commercial hunting and fishing, and oil exploration and production activities.

WWF and its partners are working to establish and maintain viable networks of protected areas, wetlands and coastal areas, community lands, and ecologically and socially well-managed logging and mining concessions in the Gamba-Conkouatie Forest Landscape.

Background

The Gamba-Conkouati landscape covers 53,290km2. It contains:

1) In Gabon, the Gamba complex of protected areas, including Loango and Moukalaba-Doudou National Parks, protected intermediate reserves and buffer zones, and the Mayumba National Park.

2) In Congo, the Conkouati-Douli National Park and non-protected areas surrounding the park.

The landscape is characterized by the juxtaposition of 3 ecoregions: the Atlantic Equatorial Forest ecoregion; the Western Congolian Savannah-Forest Mosaic ecoregion; and the Guinean-Congolian Coastal Mangroves ecoregion. This mix of ecosystems results in exceptional faunal and botanic diversity that elevates the Gamba-Conckouati landscape as a regional and global priority.

It harbours important large mammal populations such as the elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), significant populations of Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and hippo (Hippopotamus amphibious).

Other noteworthy forest dwelling species include mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx), golden potto (Arctocebus aureus), the endemic white-legged duiker (Cephalophus ogilbyi crusalbum), and a unique population of waterbuck (Cobus ellipsiprymnus).

The avifauna includes among others the Loango weaver (Ploceus subpersonatus), which is endemic to the Gabon-Cabinda coast. Along the coasts, the Gamba area supports 4 species of sea turtles, including the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), and 5 species of whale, including a large numbers of humpbacks.

The natural resources of the landscape’s forests and waters, especially fish and bushmeat are crucial to the livelihoods of local human populations, providing food, construction material, and medicine. The total population of the landscape is estimated at 26,000, with an estimated rural population density of 0.7 people per km2.

The most important towns in the landscape are Gamba (7,500 inhabitants) and Mayumba (2,980 inhabitants). 8 towns within a range of 40 km from the landscape benefit from its natural resources.

Socio-economic studies in the Gamba area show that an important portion of the rural population is over 55 years old (29%), the age class of 0-15 years is under-represented (less than 30%), and the number of women is much higher than the number of men (59% women against 41% men). These are indicators of rural exodus to the above mentioned urban development centres.

The principal ethnic groups across the landscape are the Vili and Lumbu. The Vili are the original inhabitants of the landscape, with a presence along the coastal areas of the landscape dating back to the 13th century. Within the inland parts of the Gabon segment of the landscape, the Ngové, Punu, Varama and Vungu ethnic groups are also present.

The main threats to the landscape’s biodiversity are:
1) On-shore and off-shore oil exploration and production activities.
2) Commercial hunting and fishing.
3) Unsustainable logging practices.

The proposed consortium includes WWF as overall landscape lead, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Republic of Congo (ROC) and Ibonga and Association des Pêcheries du Département de Ndougou (APDN). The landscape consortium members and the principal local collaborators, will work in partnership with governments, NGOs and private sector companies to mitigate the threats facing the landscape through the establishment of the necessary tools (e.g. data collection and analysis, participatory management processes, etc) to achieve the CARPE strategic objective.

Objectives

- Facilitate the adoption of a land use plan (LUP) for the landscape, to assure long-term sustainable management and conservation of its exceptional terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity, and enhanced livelihoods of its people.

- Assist in scaling up park and wildlife management intervention capability in the landscape to full capacity by establishing innovative public-private partnerships and active participation of men and women living in local communities.

- Engage with private sector and local stakeholders in identified Extractive Resource Zones (ERZ) and community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) zones, to collaboratively establish operational LUPs for the enhancement of local livelihoods and long-term financial mechanisms to sustainably manage the landscape biodiversity.

Solution

By 2011, the proposed interventions will have achieved a land-use plan designating protected areas, extractive use zones and CBNRM areas, adopted by governmental authorities and recognized by stakeholders, and under effective implementation.

The plan will include 12,414km2 of national park areas with an adopted management plan; at least 13,474km2 of land, brackish and freshwater in the lagoon habitat under community co-management; and approximately 3,500 km2 of logging concessions having adopted principles of sustainable forest management.

The strengthening of users’ rights to natural resources by local men and women, mainly for fish resources, is a key element of the consortium’s strategy. These efforts will be complemented by the development of governance structures and participation strategies for the different land-use units as well as the landscape scale, and the development of a strategy for the sustainable funding of key areas of the landscape.

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