On the ground in Gabon’s Gamba protected area

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > Central Africa > Gabon > Gamba Nature Reserve

Person in charge of the WWF educational programme with students. Gamba Nature Reserve, Gabon.
© WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER

Summary

Along Gabon’s southwestern coast lies the Gamba complex of protected areas. The habitat is a mix of dense tropical rainforests, wide open savannahs, swamps and lagoons bordering deserted ocean beaches, and is home to elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, hippos, manatees, marine turtles and many other species.

Extensive logging, hunting, fishing, agriculture, and oil and gas exploration are some of the factors threatening Gamba’s pristine biodiversity. WWF is carrying out a range of activities to ensure effective long-term management of the area’s national parks and other parts of the Gamba, which include supporting community development in land use planning, conservation and natural resource management.

Background

The Gamba Complex of Protected Areas is situated in the Southwestern part of Gabon along the Atlantic coast and extends over a total area of 11,000km2. It contains a mosaic of habitats including seashores, mangroves, coastal forest, swamp forest, equatorial rainforest, semi-montane forest, savannahs, rivers, lagoons and swamps.

The conservation value of the Complex has been recognized since 1962 through the protection of 8 different areas. 2 of the 13 recently created national parks in Gabon are now located in the Complex: Loango National Park (1,500km2) in the Northwestern part, and Moukalaba-Doudou National Park (5,000km2) in the Western part.

There are many threats to maintaining a balance within the biodiversity of any given area. The main problems facing the conservation of biodiversity in the Gamba Complex are: unsustainable logging, hunting, fishing, agriculture and petroleum exploitation.

Objectives

1. Clearly define management zones within the complex.

2. Refine and strengthen internal regulations in accordance with the proposed zoning.

3. Establish a management and protection system.

4. Define and initiate applied management and oriented research.

5. Design and institutionalize an environmental education and public awareness programme.

6. Promote rural development alternatives that contribute to the conservation of the Gamba Protected Area Complex.

Solution

The Gamba programme is an integrated conservation and development project (ICDP) and conforms to all 3 of the WWF mission's criteria: preserving genetic, species and ecosystem diversity; ensuring sustainable use of natural resources; and promoting action to reduce pollution and wasteful exploitation of resources. The programme aims to ensure that the rich biodiversity in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems, and their component species within the Gamba Protected Area Complex, are conserved.

WWF is carrying out a range of key activities to ensure effective long-term management of the national parks and other parts of the Complex that address the main threats outlined above. Those key activities include:

- Land use planning and institutional management: WWF catalyzes a broad participatory process to discuss and validate a consolidated and comprehensive land use and management plan for the Complex, and management plans for each of the 2 newly-created parks. It is also working with oil companies to continue to improve standards and practices for operating in an environmentally sensitive area such as the Complex.

- WWF is actively supporting community development in areas of natural resource management, and is seeking to encourage alternative activities, such as tourism, to aid in sustainable local development. An important aspect of this development is the further training of local people: training as research assistants, eco-guards, eco-guides, technical staff, teachers, community-based organizations, private sector staff and local conservation collaborators.

- WWF is catalyzing the creation of a Conservation Centre that already provides GIS-based data management services to support land-use mapping, zoning, biological and ecological monitoring and control, and guide improved management practices.

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