Where the African rainforest meets the Ocean
The Conkouati-Douli National Park is located in the southwest of the Republic of Congo, on the border with Gabon, covering an area of 504,905 hectares. The Park was created in 1999, replacing the Conkouati Wildlife Reserve existing since 1980. The National Park is today also recognized as a Ramsar Site and is registered on the indicative list of UNESCO World Heritage. Cross-border with the Mayumba National Park in Gabon, the two parks form a block of 600,000 ha of unique forest, coastal and marine habitat. Conkouati is also home to a chimpanzee sanctuary created by the NGO HELP CONGO, which over almost 30 years, has reintroduced more than half of the 110 chimpanzees rescued from the bushmeat trade in their natural environment.
Apart from its tourist potential (located 160 km from the country’s economic capital, Pointe Noire), this national park currently plays an important social and economic role for the Congo thanks in particular to its maritime interface (over 1,200 km²) which ensures the renewal of fish stocks that allowing an important fisheries sector to provide jobs and economic income for local communities.
Astonishing diversity of terrestrial and aquatic wildlife
The Park offers some of Africa’s best equatorial forest landscapes. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and intersected by a river meandering through the forest, creating an extraordinary variety of ecosystems serving as the perfect playground for the great emblematic fauna of Central Africa including the elephant, forest buffalo, leopard, sitatunga and chimpanzees (7% of the world’s population).
The large Conkouati lagoon and its mouth bordered by mangroves and white sandy beaches, harbour hippos, manatees and nesting leatherback turtles and serves as well a real spawning ground for many freshwater fish as well as marine species such as rays and sharks. Finally, at sea, there are dolphins and humpback whales, ensuring a magnificent spectacle each year with impressive breaching.
This includes 120.000 ha of maritime area and 380.000 ha of terrestrial habitat
An estimated 7% of the total population of this endangered subspecies, considered one of the closest living relatives to humans.
Western lowland gorillas
This is the smallest subspecies of gorilla but still is exceptional in size (1.8m and 270kg) and strength
The gardeners of the forest, facing increasing demand for ivory, which has led to a decrease of 60% in the Central African population in the last 10 years.
The largest turtle has been existing for about 110 million years, weighing up to 900kg and can dive more than 1 km deep.
People in the Park
About 20 villages exist within the Park’s Ecodevelopment Zone, which are important partners of the park.
Atlantic humpback dolphins
Critically endangered, with an estimated 1500 individuals left, endemic to the (sub)tropical west coast of Africa.
Well known as the intelligent and charismatic stars of many aquarium shows, with their curved mouths as a permanent smile.
How we are realizing the future
The vision for the Conkouati-Douli National Park is to remain a pristine refuge for the iconic wildlife of Central Africa benefiting local communities as well as mitigating global climate change.
To do this protection needs to be ensured, so PDN will:
– Renovate and expand the parks infrastructures (HQ and satellite camps)
– Set up marine and terrestrial surveillance systems, including community intelligence networks.
Apart from protection, habitat needs to be monitored through:
– Identification of migration corridors, densities, distribution and dynamics of flagship species
– Setting up an (inter)national Research Centre linked to the renown Chimpanzee Sanctuary
– Maintain and restore the fish stock regeneration capacities of the marine area of Conkouati
Livelihood and sustainability
At the same time the 7000 local people living in the Park will be engaged by:
– Assimilating communities as park staff and in park governance systems
– Setting up a Human – Wildlife Conflict mitigation plan (especially on Human-Elephant Conflict)
– Supporting local enterprises: small-scale fisheries, sustainable agriculture, Non-Timber Forest Products, etc.
– Supporting the Educational sector and local health posts
To ensure more sustainable income for the Park in the future, PDN aims to:
– Ensure the oil and mining industry operating in the periphery of the Park is contributing to its management
– Boosting tourism investment in partnership with local operators and international partnerships
– Value ecosystem services, especially carbon sequestration