Bateke Plateaus, Gabon
- Bateke Plateaus, Gabon Photo
- ©Jim Large
Swaths of green, undulating grasslands and gallery forests atop massive
sand dunes are the headwaters of the major rivers in Gabon and southern
Congo. Rainwater percolates through the hills and eventually becomes
the Mpassa, Djoumou, and Ogooue rivers in Gabon and the Alima and
Lefini rivers in Congo. Forest elephants attracted by the mineral-rich
sands have created a vast clearing, called Jobo Bai, which they visit
repeatedly. In addition, there are healthy populations of gorillas,
chimpanzees, several species of monkeys, buffalos, crocodiles, storks
and other water birds, wild orchids, and butterflies.
- The landscape contains three protected areas: the Plateaux Batéké National Park in Gabon covers more than 1,400 square miles, and the contiguous Lefini Reserve and Lesio-Louna Gorilla Sanctuary cover approximately 2,600 square miles in Congo.
Illegal and commercial hunting, slashing and burning of forest islands, unsustainable agricultural practices, lack of clear management systems for wildlife reserves, demand for food and employment for local people all endanger the wildlife and the landscape. Where there are access roads, harvesting for firewood and artisanal logging threaten forest and gallery forest habitats.
WCS is working with the governments of Gabon and the Republic of Congo to create a park in Congo contiguous with Plateaux Batéké National Park in Gabon that will form a trans-boundary reserve to protect wildlife on both sides of the border. Survey teams have traversed the proposed national park area, collecting data on the presence of large mammals and indicators of human activities. This information will be used to advise government officials as they consider gazetting the area as a national park.
WCS is also working with communities around the national parks to help them sustainably manage their natural resources adjacent to and within the protected areas.
In Congo, the Lefini Reserve (170 miles north of the capital Brazzaville) harbors a small population of elephants, accessible by road to tourists. WCS is working with the park managers and local communities to protect these elephants and educate the urban population about the rich biodiversity in this landscape.
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In the rainforests of Central Africa, hunters are finding their way into once inaccessible terrain, spelling disaster for forest elephants.