The Central Africa region encompasses the vast Congo Basin and Ogooué Basin forests, the second largest tropical forest in the world. It features exceptional biodiversity and is of great conservation importance, harboring vast contiguous forest blocks with intact assemblages of large charismatic mammals, including the endangered forest elephant, two species of gorilla, chimpanzees, and bonobos, the reclusive Okapi, and the bongo. It is also home to diverse human cultures including indigenous forest peoples.
The Gulf of Guinea coastlines sustain significant marine mammal and turtle nesting and feeding grounds, and the sub-region boasts globally significant biodiversity hotspots from Mount Cameroon to the Albertine Rift. The savannas of the region form the core belt of the Sudano-Sahelian zone, supporting some of the northernmost ranges of endangered elephant, lion, wild dog, giant eland, and other antelopes, as well as pastoralist communities.
The region is facing a set of unique and expanding conservation challenges and threats, which vary from forest to savannah to coastline.
Forests: Poaching of elephants for ivory, the commercial bushmeat trade, deforestation and degradation due to expanding agriculture and infrastructure development, charcoal production, poorly managed extractive industry (mining, logging, oil), and pollution.
Savannahs: Ivory poaching is an issue here, as well, including by organized transboundary, heavily armed groups, commercial bushmeat poaching, encroachment into protected areas by agriculture, mining, and construction.
Coastline: Overfishing, pollution and perturbations from the oil industry, and the targeted poaching of turtles.
The region presents unparalleled opportunities to save some of the last remaining intact forest wildernesses on the planet.
How Will We Get There?
To help do this, we are employing some core strategies:
Developing effective partnerships for terrestrial and marine protected area creation and management.
Assisting with the development of full-chain wildlife enforcement programs.
Encouraging sustainable landscape-scale planning and management.
Seeking out conservation-security partnerships in areas of conflict.
Improving the well being of local people.
Working with both government and international partners to mainstream green development strategies and approaches.
WCS has a significant presence in Central Africa with a strong conservation, protected area management, livelihoods, policy and scientific program. Central Africa includes some of the largest country programs in WCS's Global Conservation portfolio, in terms of staffing, budget, and diversity of projects, and a strong WCS legacy that dates back to the 1950s. The program includes one of WCS's flagship site-based programs in Africa (the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo) and has spearheaded and assisted with a number of pioneering conservation management models over the last 30 years, including private-public partnerships for integrating conservation in sustainable, multiple-use forest management and the creation of Gabon's world famous national park network (terrestrial and marine).
WCS is currently a part of numerous partnerships to support the management of 17 terrestrial and three marine PAs in six countries in Central Africa covering an estimated 214,214 square kilometers. We are also currently working toward the creation of four new PAs covering 62,555 square kilometers.
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WCS works to protect all four great ape species in Central Africa, from the critically endangered Cross River gorilla in Cameroon and Nigeria to the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We also work at the most important sites for the continued survival of Grauer’s gorilla in DRC. WCS programs in northern Congo work to protect the single largest population of wild gorillas on the planet.
On Our Strategies
Develop Effective Partnerships for Terrestrial and Marine PA Creation and Management
This is done through private-public management partnerships, co-management, and technical support to protected area agencies. It includes all aspects of protected area creation, planning, and adaptive management including law enforcement, infrastructure, research and monitoring, innovative tourism development, and more. The establishment of a well-managed network of terrestrial and marine parks can form the cornerstone for long-term conservation, security, and development.
Assist Development of Full-Chain Law Enforcement Programs
Intelligence-led anti-poaching efforts (including terrestrial, marine, and aerial surveillance), anti-trafficking (at landscape, national, transboundary levels), and legal follow up on prosecutions, will work to halt illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching, and improve governance at local, national, and international scales.
Encourage Sustainable Landscape-Scale Planning and Management
This includes community-based resource management (fisheries, wildlife management, non-timber forest products, etc.) and alternative sustainable livelihoods partnerships; extractive industry best practice partnerships and certifications (timber, mining, oil); and partnerships with tourism operators. Within this is land-use planning with ecologically sound zoning, set-asides, and corridor establishment outside of protected areas, and road planning. It further encompasses climate change adaptation and mitigation programs and integrating human-wildlife health interface concerns in management interventions.
Seek Conservation-Security Partnerships
These explicitly contribute to the security of both people and wildlife and include the stabilization of remote insecure zones, the creation of security cooperation and information sharing agreements, partnerships between protected areas, local authorities, communities, and armed forces, and surveillance that detects and addresses threats to both human and wildlife security. Ultimately, they foster good governance and stability in remote areas, which are susceptible to corruption, insecurity, and local and global threats (including terrorism and insurgency development).
Improve the Well Being of Local People
People depend on the forests, savannahs, and coasts of Central Africa for their water, culture, food, shelter, and their livelihoods. WCS is working to improve the well being of those in and around cities as well as near our field sites. We're doing this in three main ways:
We are working at new scales and with new partners to improve food security. The single biggest threat to wildlife in Central Africa is the commercial bushmeat trade; neither protein alternatives nor law enforcement alone can solve this complex issue.
In DR Congo, we are attempting to pilot new models of community-based management of wild places.
We are aiming to provide appropriate market- and non-market based incentives for families to engage in conservation practices and to steward the wildlife they live with and the natural resources they depend upon.
Work with Both Government and International Partners to Mainstream Green Development
This can positively influence major infrastructure and macro development planning through scientific guidance and policy support, including influencing dam and hydro plant construction, major road development, and macro zoning plans for development projects in the countries of the Central Africa region. Also, we are working to promote "green" energy options to reduce pressures on natural resources and manage and reduce charcoal production.
The Republic of Congo is home to 20% of all the remaining forest elephants on Earth, and 62% of the world's gorillas. WCS has been supporting management of the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park there since 1993. The past decade has brought considerable conservation challenges to the area, with rapid expansion of industrialized logging, and a wave of elephant poaching that began in earnest after 2006. In 2014, the government began a public-private partnership with WCS to manage the park. WCS is now fully responsible for the protection of more than 1,600 square miles of pristine lowland rainforest, a stronghold for gorillas and forest elephants, over the next 25 years. WCS management of Nouabalé-Ndoki has resulted in a fourfold expansion and professionalization of its ranger force, and a reduction of elephant poaching in the park to zero in 2015.
February 16, 2017 – Scientists and government officials met at the United Nations on Wednesday, February 15th to consider possible solutions to a global problem: how to protect whale species in their most important marine habitats that overlap...
January 11, 2017 – WCS has issued the following video statement today by Dr. Timothy Tear, WCS Executive Director of Africa Programs, on the newly published study in Nature on the discovery of the world’s largest peatland in the Republic of Congo.
New York (Jan. 3, 2016) – Today WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) is releasing an English language version of China’s historic announcement on ivory made on Dec. 30, 2016. The text was translated by WCS.