The Gamba Complex - Our Solutions

Research, Monitoring and Training

WWF is catalysing 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 protection, and guide improved management practices.

Several flagship species (great apes, marine turtles, elephants) and socio-economic research projects are carried out in collaboration with several local and international research partners including National Forestry School, Max Planck Institute, an EU-funded Central and Western Africa Turtle monitoring Program (Kudu), University of Glasgow, and Ibonga.

Cybertracker Monitoring Programme
WWF established a collaboration with the Cybertracker Monitoring Programme to support the different actors in the management of the area by providing an "easy to use" tool for data collection, and to help set up the Gamba Complex GIS Database.

The goal of this partnership is to define reliable indicators and a methodology for collecting data in order to establish a reliable monitoring program for the Gamba Complex. Field data are collected by Park and WWF staff, and use the now famous "Cybertrackers". The Gamba Complex now has an innovative and comprehensive field GIS and Data Centre, the first of its kind in the country, including:

  • a physical library with more than 2,000 items, entered into a database using EndNote software;
  • an extensive photo and CD library entered in an Access database;
  • a database recording off-take by local fishermen, developed in Access;
  • a very comprehensive baseline map focusing on the Gamba Complex and the Gamba - Conkouati Forest Landscape including data layers on land-use (oil, logging, human settlements, hunting, fishing), vegetation, administrative and protected area limits, socio-economic data, tourism, roads, hydrology, topography, and distribution data on key species;
  • the results of data collected with Handheld computers using Cybertracker technology and downloaded into the GIS data base,
  • an automated field missions management database that allows monitoring of, amongst others, surveillance efficiency, patrolling effort per unit of time and area, stock control, and petty cash management.

The expertise and data present at the Gamba GIS and Database Center are available for other users. If you are interested in knowing more about the Cybertracker Conservation, and their work in with WWF in the Gamba Complex, please look at their Website.

Marine Turtle Research
The Gamba-Conkouati Landscape is an ideal place for long-term monitoring of marine turtle nesting sites. Its long, pristine beaches are part of the most important global nesting site for leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea). Other species found on the research sites are olive ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea), and occasionally some green turtles (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbills (Eretmochelys imbricata).

WWF has been working on turtle monitoring and protection in Gabon over the last four years in collaboration with Ibonga (a local environmental education NGO), Biotopic (a Dutch environmental NGO) and Kudu, an EU-funded programme, which was set up following the implementation of the international Abidjan Agreement on sea turtle protection for African countries along the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the leatherback turtles tagged by WWF teams in Gamba in December 2003 has been found by a local fisherman in the coastal waters of Argentina in February 2005. This means that the turtle travelled a distance of over 7,500 km in 14 months!

The WWF Gamba Marine Turtle monitoring Programme is part of the WWF Trans Atlantic Leatherback Programme, together with Uruguay and the Guiana's. Three transmitters will be placed on leatherbacks in each country with depth and temperature sensors.

Although much work has been done by all turtles partners in to protect it's marine turtles over the last few years (see map), no coordination or exchange of information structures existed. This lack of a coherent approach has been identified by all partners as a serious impediment to first of all a better understanding of the conservation status of marine turtles in, but also to be able to develop  efficient nation-wide protection systems.

In order to coherently address above mentioned priorities on a national level, the partners have created, in September 2005, a national organizational structure grouping government and conservation partners along a national turtle conservation partnership whose activities will be partially funded through US Fish and Wildlife Service.

In this way the mostly unknown foraging and migration behavior can be studied as well as the interaction with fisheries. In the near future, these leatherbacks can be followed in real-time on a WWF website.

Training of eco-guards and eco-guides
In 2004, the first national training of ecoguards and ecoguides, which lasted for 3 months, was organized by WWF-Gabon, in collaboration with the National Forestry School (ENEF) and other partners.

The training took place in Gamba, and received 63 candidate ecoguards and ecoguides from all over the country, of which 14 ecoguards were sponsered by WWF Gamba. Following the theoretical training, WWF Gamba continued with its 14 trainees on a 3 month field training to complement their theoretical knowledge.

Training modules included orientation in the forest, bird watching, map reading, discipline and knowledge of the law, and Cybertracker utilization. This part of the training is featured by the French-German cultural television ARTE.

Their film crew toured Loango and Moukalaba National Parks for 56 days to produce a series of documentaries featuring park and WWF staff and activities in the Gamba Complex of Protected Areas. It is expected that the documentaries will be broadcast to the public around February 2006.

Great Apes
A PhD student from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Hjalmar Kuehl, has assisted WWF and park management authorities in implementing a Great Ape research program, which has been expanded into the ecological and surveillance monitoring mentioned below.

This Great Ape research is based on a team of WWF/Max Planck field researchers collecting data on distribution, dung and nest counts, and direct observations to determine the population number and distribution of Western Lowland Gorillas and Chimpanzees in the Gamba Complex.

Ecological and Surveillance Monitoring
In tandem with the Cybertracker Monitoring Programme, WWF is working with Hjalmar Kuehl of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, to develop an innovative data collection protocol, which sends teams out into the field to gather indicator data on the spatial distribution and abundance of flagship species and on illegal human activities.

This work is essential to monitoring the ecological health of the Gamba Complex, and will prove crucial to helping solve threats such as poaching and animal crop raiding. By following the terms of this protocol, protection and surveillance efforts will continually be fine tuned to allow for better park and protected area management.

Interesting Partner work on Elephant Monitoring
Currently, 12 elephants have been satellite collared in the Gamba Complex by WCS/Smithsonian Institution/and SCD teams. For real-time data on their current location and movements in the area, you can log-on to the Interactive Web Mapping Tool for the Congo Basin.
Training the turtle team on Cybertracker tools. / ©: WWF-Canon / Victor Mbolo (Cybertracker Monitoring Programme)
Training the turtle team on Cybertracker tools.
© WWF-Canon / Victor Mbolo (Cybertracker Monitoring Programme)
Cybertracker Monitoring Programme - entering forest buffalo data. / ©: WWF-Canon / Jean Mark Froment (Cybertracker Monitoring Programme)
Cybertracker Monitoring Programme - entering forest buffalo data.
© WWF-Canon / Jean Mark Froment (Cybertracker Monitoring Programme)
Tagging a leatherback near Gamba, with Alois Clemens of WWF-NL / ©: WWF-Canon / Jason Gray
Tagging a leatherback near Gamba, with Alois Clemens of WWF-NL
© WWF-Canon / Jason Gray
Ecoguard and Ecoguide training organized by WWF and partners / ©: WWF-Canon / Olivier Pauwels (WWF Consultant)
Ecoguard and Ecoguide training organized by WWF and partners
© WWF-Canon / Olivier Pauwels (WWF Consultant)
Chimpanzee feeding on wild figs in Loango National Park. / ©: WWF-Canon / Jaap Oostindier (WWF volunteer)
Chimpanzee feeding on wild figs in Loango National Park.
© WWF-Canon / Jaap Oostindier (WWF volunteer)
Turtle beaches, Gabon / ©: WWF-Canon
Turtle beaches, Gabon. Click on the map to enlarge.
© WWF-Canon

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