Last updated: February 16, 2024

About the Ntokou Pikounda National Park

Ntokou Pikounda National Park (NPNP) is one of the most significant biodiverse areas in the Congo Basin. The NPNP is located in the TRIDOM landscape and covers 4,572 km2 of forests and swamps. Spread over three countries – Cameroon, the Republic of Congo and Gabon – the Tri-National Dja-Odzala-Minkébé (TRIDOM) transborder forest covers 178,000 km2, or 10% of the Congo Basin rainforest. It includes 11 protected areas that contain some of the most pristine natural sites remaining in the Congo Basin, including Ntokou Pikounda.  People are at the forefront of WWF’s area-based conservation work and we are committed to enhancing the participation of Indigenous People and local communities, and ensuring that the NPNP contributes to sustainable livelihoods, and local and national sustainable development.

PCA model: co-management

NPNP was created by the government of the Republic of Congo (RoC) in 2013, with support from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

In November 2017, WWF International entered into two agreements with the government through the Ministry of Forest Economy (‘MEF’), the first being about cooperation on the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable management of natural resources in the Republic of Congo, the second being to enter into a partnership for the co-management of NPNP.

Under this co-management model, there is no delegation of state authority. The government is responsible for ensuring the surveillance and protection of the park, and employs the park rangers who serve as the law enforcement authority against poaching. The executive body of the park (the Coordination Unit) is composed of a WWF-employed Park Director and a government-employed Deputy Park Director. The Deputy Park Director is appointed by the government from the Congolese Agency for Wildlife and Protected Areas (ACFAP), and ensures that all activities under the specific authority of the government are carried out properly. The Deputy Park Director is also in charge of the anti-poaching activities carried out by the park rangers, political representation at the departmental level and liaison with the military and security authorities.

WWF is responsible for leading the conservation strategy within the park, including capacity building for local communities and government rangers, biological research and natural resource management. WWF supports the implementation of conservation and the responsible use of natural resources, including biological research (biomonitoring) and community management of development activities for the benefit of local people. WWF also provides logistical, financial and technical support to MEF and the Congolese Agency for Wildlife and Protected Areas (ACFAP) for the prevention of poaching, as well as technical and financial support for human rights training provided to park rangers.



Wildlife surveys of the landscape have revealed exceptional wildlife importance and conservation significance. NPNP is a biodiversity hotspot and home to significant populations of gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, hippos and other wildlife. Bouvier’s red colobus monkeys were rediscovered in the park in 2015, 40 years after the last observation of that subspecies in the 1970s. Most of NPNP is swampland and is part of the Central Congo peatlands, which has extremely high below-ground carbon stocks. The main threats to NPNP include elephant poaching, commercial bushmeat hunting, and the large-scale capture of grey parrots for the exotic pet trade.


Approximately 7,000 people live around the wider periphery of the park (Ntokou and Pikounda districts) while around 960 people live on the eastern border of the park, including the Balouma and Bonguili Indigenous communities. The main livelihood activity for the Bantu majority population is seasonal fishing during dry season, with limited subsistence agriculture and hunting.

© WWF / Jaap van der Waarde

Complexities and challenges

Legacy and the ongoing development of a park management plan

The park’s creation in 2013 by the RoC government, with support from the WCS, preceded 2019 national legislation for Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for Indigenous Peoples. Concerns about the perceived lack of adequate consultation at the time of the park’s creation produced, and continues to contribute to, ongoing tensions, particularly in relation to access restrictions. 

Starting in 2019, subsequent to entering into a co-management agreement with the government, WWF initiated a participatory mapping exercise with communities in recognition of this history. In accordance with WWF’s Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework, more specifically the Safeguard on Restriction of Access, WWF initiated this exercise with communities to produce maps that represent areas of importance related to food and other natural resources, cultural practices, recreational activities, access routes and any other interests and priorities of the community. 

The aim is to provide a tool in consultation with communities for the zoning of the park by including integral protection zones, exploitation zones and transitional "buffer" zones between the other two types of zones. The identification of each community's usage zones will then be used as a tool for the drawing up of the park’s Development Plan, which will itself be based on multi-stakeholder dialogue that will make it possible to provide the basis for an acceptable and accepted system of regulation as regards access rules, and the use of natural resources in the park.

In 2021, WWF initiated a socio-economic study of NPNP which highlighted the high reliance of two Indigenous Peoples groups – the Balouma and the Bonguili – on subsistence fishing on rivers that flow through the park. This study has been used to inform the ongoing implementation of WWF’s safeguards framework in the landscape.

A process to create a formal management plan for the park is underway in collaboration with the government. That plan will draw on multiple studies and information sources, including the participatory mapping, the socio-economic study, and a wildlife census that is due to be undertaken in 2024.

In some cases, activities have been slowed by a lack of secured financial or staff capacity. The chronic under-funding of the landscape has impacted the undertaking of the participatory mapping exercise with communities, as referred to above, as well as the establishment and ongoing support of the multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) and sustaining an effective grievance mechanism, as described in the sections below.  Seeking sustainable funding and partners necessary for the delivery of activities in the Park, including the important work in support of and for the benefit of local populations, is an essential part of WWF’s ongoing efforts related to NPNP.

Remoteness and access to services

NPNP is very remote. Access is limited, the most reliable means being only by river. This poses a health and safety risk for many: communities and individuals living on the park periphery; those who access the park to fish during designated fishing periods; and those who participate in wildlife biomonitoring. There is very limited access to medical and other critical services in the event of injury, illness, or emergency. Currently, WWF’s analysis per our safeguards framework has identified the need to establish effective alert and communications systems (radio or satellite) and evacuation procedures including ability to access motorized boats (the use of motorized canoes for fishing purposes is prohibited in the park) in the event of injury, illness or emergency. There is also a need to have appropriate health, safety and security protocols and procedures in place for community support activities, which includes training plans, assistance procedures in the event of accidents, and the provision of safety (PPE) and first-aid.

Human-wildlife conflict

The presence of the elephant population in NPNP poses a safety risk and a challenge for local communities, whose agricultural crops and properties can be damaged or lost. Livelihood concerns, driven by human-wildlife conflict concerns, have surfaced in discussions at multi-stakeholder platform meetings. NPNP is a pilot site for WWF’s recently developed Conflict to Coexistence (C2C) methodology, which includes hands-on guidance and training for managing human-wildlife conflict. WWF’s work in this context in NPNP involves stakeholder identification and analysis, and human-wildlife risk assessment with multiple stakeholder groups with an objective to co-create a strategy with the community.

The Bouvier's Red Colobus was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 2015 in the Ntokou ... rel= © WWF / Jaap van der Waarde

Our approach in practice

WWF and the government are currently in a process of evaluating the partnership and discussing a renewal of the co-management agreement. Any renewal of the agreement will be an opportunity for the government and WWF to strengthen and reaffirm mutual commitment to respect human rights and the government’s obligation to protect those rights, consistent with legislation of the Republic of Congo and WWF’s Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework (ESSF) and Statements of Principle. The park must be run in a way that respects and meets the needs of local communities and Indigenous Peoples living in and around it.

The implementation of WWF’s Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework (ESSF) in NPNP commenced in 2020. The safeguards screening has since been finalized, while an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) and Environmental and Social Mitigation Framework (ESMF) are in the final stages of completion. The safeguards on Indigenous Peoples, Community Health, Safety and Security and Restriction of Access have been determined as applicable to WWF's activities in NPNP, together with the safeguards on Stakeholder Engagement and Grievance Mechanisms which are applied in all cases.

The development of the ESIA and the ESMF have been heavily informed by comprehensive consultations with communities bordering the park. These consultations were designed with particular attention paid to engaging with Indigenous Peoples, women and vulnerable groups or those at high risk of being made vulnerable. In total, meetings with communities took place in 25 localities, distributed throughout the periphery of the park. A total of 493 people participated in the consultations (218 women and 275 men, of which 102 were members of Indigenous communities).

The consultative process underpinning the step-wise implementation of​​ WWF’s ESSF has proven valuable in identifying specific challenges and mitigations to address them. These outputs will also inform the development of foundational requirements for the sustainability of the park such as the management plan of the park and the agreement between WWF and the government.

Risk mitigation is an ongoing process and adaptive management is a necessary and important concept in the context of PCAs like NPNP. WWF is committed to listening, learning and reflecting on how PCAs need to be improved and to play an active role in engaging all key stakeholders as we do so


Stakeholder engagement
Working in partnership with the government and others, WWF has helped to establish mechanisms that facilitate routine engagement with communities that live on the periphery of the park and who access it for fishing.

A multi-stakeholder platform was initiated in 2019 and comprises three specific sub-committees that focus on complaints management; fishing rights and human-wildlife conflict, respectively. The fishing rights committee played a key role in representing the views of the local communities leading to a revision of the fishing regulations - including the transition from a total ban to permitted access on defined stretches of the rivers in the park within two three-month fishing seasons.

The complaints management (grievance) mechanism was launched in 2020, drawing on the model that had been implemented in an adjacent landscape a year earlier. It is administered by WWF’s community liaison team, which acts as secretariat to the complaints management sub-committee of the multi-stakeholder platform. An awareness campaign to promote the grievance mechanism was run in 2020 in both the Ntokou and Pikounda districts. Complaints received are logged and then reviewed by the sub-committee, which may request further hearings or fact-finding. The sub-committee then shares draft recommendations with park management, which ensures appropriate resolution and follow-up.

In 2023, the grievance mechanism protocol was reviewed to improve the clarity of its operation. Proposed revisions reflect the effectiveness criteria that are part of the Safeguard on Grievance Mechanisms and include clear timelines; eligibility criteria, roles and responsibilities, and escalation procedures for sensitive complaints. Once the proposed revisions to the grievance mechanism have been validated by the complaints management committee, a community outreach and awareness campaign will be implemented. Critical to this, however, is securing a sustainable funding model for the mechanism (and the multi-stakeholder platform more widely). A lesson from the first years of operation was the lack of funding to promote the platform on an ongoing basis and cover all its related costs of operation including training and capacity building on complaints management practices.

Working in partnership with others who are working in the same landscape will also help us understand where our efforts still need to be improved. As an example, WWF welcomed efforts by a local civil society organization, Centre d’Actions pour le Développement (CAD), to organize a mission to the communities in November 2022 to explore possible complaints about law enforcement activities in 2019. In March 2023, CAD subsequently published a report titled “Parc National Ntokou-Pikounda: Quand le bonheur des uns impose la misère aux autres”.

In its report, CAD noted alleged incidents of serious misconduct by rangers based in and outside the park, and presented certain recommendations to NPNP management. Acknowledging the importance of CAD’s work, and upon learning of their report, WWF made a formal request to the government to jointly commission a dedicated fact-finding effort. The government agreed, and a commission of three experts was appointed, comprising an independent consultant, a representative from the government, and a member of the ROC’s National Human Rights Commission. In December 2023, WWF-International’s Director General and the RoC's Minister of Forest Economy met with these experts to directly express strong support for their work while awaiting their report.  

The joint fact-finding exercise concluded in early 2024, a summary of conclusions, recommendations to WWF, the government and NPNP management, together with follow-up actions to be taken by the respective parties can be found hereThese actions will reinforce our existing commitments and ways of engagement to ensure effective co-management of the park. The broader illustration of the complexities explored in the fact-finding mission will help further shape our approach and engagement with all stakeholders.  

The complexities of NPNP are self-evident. However, as with many Protected and Conserved Areas, NPNP represents a crucial ecosystem for preserving the planet's biodiversity and ensuring sustainable futures. For this reason, WWF continues to seek ways to navigate challenges in order to realize, working alongside others, the inherent benefits of the park for people and nature.


The Silowana Complex

The Solomon Islands

Footnote pertaining to text above:

  1. Deputy Park Director appointed, supervised and managed by the Congolese Agency for Wildlife and Protected Areas (ACFAP).