Gabon announces creation of 13 National Parks

Posted on September, 09 2002

Gabon's President, His Excellency El Hadj Omar Bongo, confirmed the creation of 13 national parks in Gabon covering three million hectares that represent 10 percent of the country's surface area.
Libreville, Gabon - After his announcement in Johannesburg, South Africa, Gabon's President, His Excellency El Hadj Omar Bongo, confirmed the creation of 13 national parks in Gabon covering three million hectares that represent 10 per cent of the country's surface area. This decision, a rare occurrence in the history of conservation in Africa, unveils the President's vision regarding the future of the country. The commitment was made within the context of the Yaounde Declaration signed by Heads of States of six countries in Central Africa in March 1999. The announcement aligns with the recently launched Congo Basin Forest Partnership. Aware of what conservation of natural resources could provide to the development of his country, Gabon's number one accepted a joint proposal by WWF and the World Conservation Society (WCS) for the creation of a national park system. The establishment of the 13 national parks in Gabon constitutes the result of a two-year field research programme led by both organizations in partnership with the local Water and Forests Services. These assessments include the critical sites identified by IUCN - the World conservation Union and are refined by the Congo Basin biological vision during a workshop facilitated by WWF in April 2000. Representative of the country's main ecosystems, from marine and coastal habitats to mountain and lowlands forests, the new national parks include five already existing protected areas (Lopé, Minkebe, Monts Doudou, Moukalaba, Petit-Loango) and eight new sites which had never been classified in the past. This historic decision also offers a unique opportunity for diversifying the country's economy through ecotourism development. The potential remains high while still poorly exploited: areas like Gamba for instance provide views of elephants and gorillas roaming the dunes while buffaloes stroll the beach and sea turtles ride the waves. Or for the more adventurous, the Minkebe Forest Reserve offers the largest roadless forest wilderness in Africa which is home to 16 primate species, including lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. As part of its long-term commitment to conservation in the Congo Basin, WWF will continue to contribute to the Congo Basin Forest Partnership and extend its conservation programmes in collaboration with other NGOs and programmes active in the sub-region. This contribution, according to Dr Chris Hails, WWF International Programme Director, will focus on support for field-based activities that promote the effective management of a representative network of twenty-six protected areas and surrounding zones in eleven priority landscapes covering six countries throughout Central Africa. The strategy of WWF, which has been playing a major role for over 30 years in Central Africa, is converging with other partners' vision with a focus on protected areas which are crucial for conserving biodiversity and maintaining wild ecosystems. The vision, however, looks at conservation in a wide social and political context, recognizing the role of natural resources for development. The national parks being created under the leadership of President Bongo foster this approach through a focus on poverty alleviation as human needs are considered. For further information: Laurent Magloire Somé WWF Representative for Central Africa Regional Office Tel.: +237 950 36 11; +241 06 01 73 (mobile) E-mail : Joseph Mayombo Communications Officer Tel.: +241 73 00 28; +241 08 94 69 (mobile) E-mail : Notes: • The Congo Basin Forest Partnership, an initiative to conserve and promote sustainable development in the Congo Basin Forests, was announced at the World Summit on Sustainable Development that just took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. • The Yaoundé Declaration, signed in March 1999 by Heads of State of six countries in Central Africa (Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon), and recently by the Democratic Republic of Congo, includes twelve strong commitments to forest conservation and sustainable management in the Congo Basin forests.
Ivindo river, near Minkebé, Gabon.WWF-Canon / M. Gunther