Protecting tropical rainforests in Côte d'Ivoire

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > West Africa > Ivory Coast

Agents going on patrol, Taï National Park, Ivory Coast.
© WWF-Canon / Phil MARSHALL

Summary

The World Heritage-listed Taï National Park in Côte d'Ivoire is the single largest tract of undisturbed tropical rainforest in West Africa and is home to such threatened species as the pygmy hippopotamus and chimpanzees. The survival of the forest and its wildlife has been seriously threatened by slash-and-burn farming, poaching, unsustainable logging and illegal gold mining.

WWF is working with partners to ensure the long-term conservation of the national park by providing technical support to park authorities, including surveillance, ecotourism and natural resource management and by developing and coordinating environmental education programmes.

Background

Tai National Park, established in 1972 on the recommendation of WWF and IUCN, contains West Africa’s largest undisturbed tropical rainforest. It ranks among the highest priority tropical moist forest areas in Africa, according to the African Review System, and action plans drawn up by IUCN's Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas (CNPPA).

The first management plan was drawn up in 1975 by the Bureau pour le Developpement de la Production Agricole. In 1982 Tai was declared a World Heritage Site.

In recent years the situation at Tai has become critical. In May 1988 the farmers were given 3 years notice to leave the area by the Ministry of Water and Forest. Despite this, farming for cocoa and coffee is still prevalent in some areas of the protection zone. Poaching has also increased, and in the Southern and Eastern parts of the park illegal gold mining has been a serious problem. On the Western side of the park, demographic pressure was greatly increased by the influx of Liberian refugees.

The current Autonomous Project for the Conservation of Tai National Park (APCTNP) is an integrated conservation and development project funded by the German Development Bank (KfW). It is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), WWF, and research organisations (e.g. the Dutch Tropical Forest Aid Programme - Tropenbos), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources.

WWF's role in APCTNP adds to and complements those proposed by the project, particularly in providing technical support to park management authorities in surveillance, ecotourism, monitoring and evaluation, and by developing and coordinating an environmental education programme.

Objectives

1. Support Direction for the Protection of Nature in its monitoring and evaluation programme.

2. Establish a system to evaluate the impact of surveillance patrols.

3. Participate in the establishment of an information network together with local communities.

4. Develop and test more efficient patrol methods.

5. Determine personnel and equipment needs.

6. Participate in the development of an ecological monitoring programme.

7. Update the master plan for the park and participate in developing a management plan.

8. Help develop solutions to the problem of illegal plantation farming.

9. Contribute to raising awareness of the population living around Tai National Park.

10. Collaborate with the Ministry of Education and the National Environmental Action Plan and contribute to the implementation of sound, long-term and sustainable practices in environmental education.

Solution

Conserving biological resources with an economic potential in a poverty stricken neighbourhood is a daunting and ambitious initiative. The uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources, especially wood, the commercial poaching, and the clandestine clearings constitute serious threats which give concern to park managers and partners for the long-term protection of the park’s integrity.

It is therefore urgent to increase public awareness of the problem, reinforce surveillance of the park and develop local radio and national media coverage.

Consistent support for the development of alternative activities to poaching is yet to be provided. The solution may lie in small grants from other organisations supporting conservation activities, poverty alleviation and local development.

Achievement

- Impact of the war on park and its infrastructure, fauna and flora and operating systems evaluated.

- Anti-poaching operations in the park effectively re-established.

- Ecological monitoring provides data for park management and tracks populations of flagship species.

- Local populations supportive of the park through increased awareness, development projects and the mitigation of human-elephant conflicts (HECs).

- Coordination of partners active in Tai National Park improved.

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