Wildlife of the Central African Republic

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Location of the Central African Republic

Wildlife in the Central African Republic is in the vast natural habitat located between the Congo Basin's rain forests and large savannas, where the human density was smaller than 0.5 per km2 prior to 1850. The forest area of 22.755 million ha, considered as one of richest storehouses of wild life spread over national parks, hunting reserves and community hunting areas, underwent a change over to an alarming situation of loss of wild life due to greed for ivory and bushmeat exploitation by the hunters, mostly Arab slavers from across the borders of the Central African Republic (Central African Republic) with Chad and Sudan.[1][2][3]

Realising the serious threat to the wildlife, the colonists – French Administration – in 1935 and later the Government of the Republic of CRA, enacted laws and created National parks and preserves, which covered 16.6% of the country. The three most coveted national parks are the Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park with its reported "greatest concentrations of hippos in the world", the Bamingui-Bangoran National Park in the north; and the Dzanga-Sangha Reserve which covers rain forests.[3] The Manovo-Gounda-Saint-Floris National Park, in particular was inscribed to the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in 1988 in recognition of the diversity of life present within it in respect of its wealth of flora and fauna.[4]

However, the legal instruments were not effective in controlling poaching activities for profits, as institutional support for protected areas has all along been weak with hunters and loggers not letting go their activities even in national parks. Most of the timber extracted from the CRA is exported to Europe.[2]

The richness of the wild life of the Central African Republic is reflected in its about 3,600 species of plants, 663 birds, 209 mammals (includes two endemic species and 11 threatened species[5]), 187 reptiles and 29 amphibians.[2]

Geography[edit]

The Central African Republic, a landlocked country in Africa, which was once a French colony under the name Ubangi-Shari, is a rich rainforest area of 22.755 million ha with tropical forest covering 35% of the area of the country.[2] The rich forests of the Central African Republic vary and are largely delimited within the major tropical rain forests of Africa and the great open savannas that stretches from across the continent, south of the Sahara. Depending on the climatic conditions, it is distributed with thick forests in the south, woody savanna in the centre and grasslands in the north. The wild life in these forests reflects all the species identified in Africa; the most conspicuous species are the elephants, chimpanzees, crocodiles, hippos, giraffes and many more.[3][6]

The ecosystem in Central African Republic comprise the Western Congo Basin Forests, the Northeastern Congo Basin Forests, and the Sudanian Savannas. The land use is categorised under the grass and shrub as 59%, under crops and settlements at 5% and major forests at 36% of the total land area of the country. Anthropological pressure is reported to be low in 46% area; medium in 44% and high in 10% of the land area.[5]

Apart from all the savanna species of wild animals, the unique species found here is of forest gorillas.[6]

It had recorded the least percentage of forest loss in the period between 1990 and 2005 of 1.9%. Subsequently logging roads were built not only to sustain subsistence agriculture but mostly for poaching for bush meat and ivory hunting, which has caused severe depletion of the abundant and diverse wildlife of CRA.[2]

Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park[edit]

Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park is a national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Central African Republic. It was inscribed to the list of World Heritage Sites in 1988 covering an area of 1.74 million ha under category (ix)(x), recognising the diversity of life present within it, and under IUCN Category II. It encompasses three zones namely, "the flood plain of the Bahr Aouk and Bahr Kameur rivers in the north, the Massif des Bongo in the south, and a gently undulating transitional plain between." The vegetation types that dominate the park within these three zones consists of Sudanese-Guinean woodland savannah that is further subdivided under five types namely, "the Terminalia laxiflora wooded savannah; the Isoberlinia doka and Monotes kerstingii woodland; the Pseudocedrela kotschyi and Terminalia macroptera woodland; the mixed lowland woodland or wooded savannah; and Anogeissus leio and Khaya senegalensis." However, due to poaching activity within the park and severe loss of flora and wild life, it was added to the list of World Heritage in Danger, in 1997.[4][7] Some 59 species have been recorded within the park.[8]

Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve[edit]

Forest elephants in the wetlands of saline Dzanga-Sangha.

Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve is a protected reserve of southwestern Central African Republic was established in 1990 and covers 6,865.54 km2 (2,650.80 sq mi).[9] The forest special reserve was established in 1990 along with its neighbouring Dzanga Ndoki National Park. Until 1986, anybody was free to shoot game in the forest.[10]

The reserve is ecologically rich and contains a variety of megafauna such as Western Lowland Gorillas, African Forest Elephants, Bongo antelopes, African Forest Buffalos,[11] In 1999, the forest special reserve was administered collaboratively by the Central African Ministry of Environment, Water, Forests, Hunting and Fishing, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).[12]

Legal ordinances[edit]

To preserve the unique forest vegetation that covers 35% of the land area of the country and the wild life within it, and put an end to the intensive poaching activity from across its international border with Chad and Sudan, establishment of National parks and reserves to preserve the environment of rich natural heritage became a necessity. The French Administration as colonists of the country in 1935 and later the Government of the Central African Republic enacted laws to establish National Parks, Presidential Parks, Strict Nature Reserves, Wildlife Reserves, Special Reserves and Biosphere Reserves.[3]

The National Parks set up are the Andre Felix National Park, the Bamingui-Bangoran National Park, the Manovo-Gounda Saint Floris and the Zdanga-Ndoki; the Presidential Park is the D'Avakaba; the Strict Nature Reserves are the Mbaéré-Bodingué Reserve and the Vassaka-Bolo Reserve; the Wildlife Reserves are Aouk-Aoukale Reserve, Gribingui-Bamingui Reserve, Koukourou-Bamingui Reserve, Nana-Barya Reserve, Ouandja-Vakaga Reserve, the Yata-Ngaya Reserve and the Zemongo Reserve; the Special Reserve is the Dzanga-Sangha; and the Biosphere Reserve is Basse-Lobaye.[3]

Important ordinances enacted by the Central African Republic concern protection of wild life and regulation of hunting, under the guideline that wild life forms an integral part of the national heritage. The law defines various categories of protected areas and prescribed rules for their establishment, apart from the management aspects of fully and partially protected species and ordinary game species; regulation hunting procedures have also been listed for ordinary game species. Taking of fully protected species is banned. Partially protected species can be taken with specific permission. The capturing and transport of wild animals by and under the control of the Wildlife Department, enforcement measures and penalties are also defined.[13]

Flora[edit]

The flora of the Central African Republic has not been very well studied at all, although at least 3600 species are known.[14] However there are likely to be as many as 5000 species.[14] The country is mainly dominated by Sudanian woodland, although a small area of Acacia dominates the Sahelian woodland in the extreme north. Many of the species which are endemic to the country are located in the hills of northeast, especially in the Massif des Bongos and Massif du Dar Chala in the Yata Ngaya Faunal Reserve area. Notable northern forests include Kotto, Kaga-Bandoro and Nana forest. Savanna reserves in the north important for large manmals people , especially Bamingui-Bangoran National Park and Biosphere Reserve and Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park and the north of the country also contains floodplains.[14]

In the southwest is lowland forest and secondary grassland interspersed with forest in the Bangassou area of the south. Lowland forest exists in the southwest in the Dzangha-Sangha and Mbaere Bodingue Ngoto areas.[14] Shrubs and bush vegetation mostly confined in the extreme northern region. Tropical forests cover 3.5 million ha.[15] The tropical forests contain luxuriant plant growth with hundreds of plant species including Entradrolphragus angolensis, Lophira alata, Manilkara mabokeensis, Monodora myristica, Ricinodendron heudlotii, along with the African tulip tree, rubber tree, strangler fig, and cecropia.[16][17][18]

Woodland savannah mainly consists of Vittelaria paradoxa, Combretum spp., Acacia spp., Anogeissus leiocarpa, Afzelia africana, Burkea africana, Isoberlinia doka, Terminalia spp., Khaya senegalensis, Rafia sudanica and Borassus spp. along the rivers.

Fauna[edit]

Chimpanzees in the Central African Republic.

The fauna of the CRA consists of 209 mammal species, of which two are endemic and 11 are threatened. The threatened species listed in the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals are: endangered species namely, common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), Giant African Water Shrew (Potamogale velox), Red colobus (Procolobus badius) and wild dog (Lycaon pictus); and the vulnerable species are African elephant (Loxodonta africana), African golden cat (Profelis aurata), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Gounda mouse (Mus goundae); endemic species are Hun shrew (Crocidura attila), lion (Panthera leo), and Oubangui mouse (Mus oubanguii), red-fronted gazelle (Gazella rufifrons) and spotted-necked otter (Lutra maculicollis). The Gabon Dwarf Shrew (Suncus remyi), which was critically endangered in the past is now a species of least concern.[5]

The wildlife of CRA featured on a sheet of the Boy Scouts' Association 1997 contains Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus), Red Kite, Great White Pelican, Cattle Egret, wild dog, gnu, panther, African elephant, buffalo, hippopotamus and leopards, though no stamps of the wildlife have been issued.[19]

Almost every animal of the tropics is found here, including the elephant; its ivory was once a major source of wealth but has declined in economic importance. The southwest has a colourful variety of butterflies. The faunal species are listed in the Animal Diversity Web site of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, some of which are mentioned in the following sections.[1][20][21][22] Both crocodiles and hippopotamuses are found in the rivers.[23]

Mammals[edit]

Mammals are African forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), chimpanzees, forest buffalo or dwarf buffalo, forest antelopes (bongo), moustached monkey, (Cercopithecus cephus), Hyperolius viridiflavus, blue duiker (Philantomba monticola), black-cheeked white-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius), guereza (Colobus guereza), oribi (Ourebia ourebi), Angolan colobus (Colobus angolensis), Pennant's red colobus (Piliocolobus pennantii), puku (Kobus vardonii), western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), white buffalo (Syncerus caffer), roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus), Giant Lord’s Derby Eland (Taurotragus derbianus).[20][21][22]

Western Lowland Gorillas are tracked in the Dzanga-Sangha Reserve in the south of the Central African Republic, apart from witnessing elephants in groups of 30–100 bathing in mud pools and feeding. Forest elephants, heavily poached in the past, found only in the rain forests, are comparatively smaller in size in relation with the elephants found in the savanna habitat; even their ivory are stated to be harder, stronger with a different shade called the "pink or hot ivory". Likewise, forest buffaloes found here, also called the dwarf buffaloes, are shorter in size compared to those found in the savanna. Black rhino (Diceros bicornis) is now reported to be an extinct species in the CRA dropping "from 3000 to 0". Due to poaching and diseases caused due to introduction of illegal cattle transhumance, elephant (Loxodonta africana) and buffon kob (Kobus kob) populations declined by over 80% each, over a period of 20 years.[1][24]

An African Elephant in a musth state.

Breeding of elephants in the dry months of December to March and July–August has some interesting aspects. Males are said to be in rut or musth when it is noted that secretions appear near their head as dark stains combined with continuous dribbling of urine. During this musth time they roam in the forest in search of females in estrous state, based on smell and the “estrous song”, which the females belt out, which are heard over several miles in the forest.[24] Hunting of elephants is totally prohibited.[13]

As of 1990, the country had about 1500 giraffe and 8000 buffalo in the Manovo Gounda St Floris reserve and 6800 in Bamingui-Bangoran reserve.[14] There are 19 or 20 species of primates in Central African Republic.[14] Of particular note is the gorillas, protected in the Dzanga-Sangha reserve and chimpanzees which are protected in the Zemongo Faunal Reserve and are also found south of Bambio and east of Bayanga.[14]

The country has 23 species of antelopes and one of Africa's largest populations of giant eland in the north and east of the country. Significant numbers of duiker, sitatunga and bongo are found in the southwest, particularly at Bangassou.[14] The unusual features of the forest antelopes found in the CRA is that they all have spiral horns and striped pelages.[24] The country has ten recorded species of bats, of which one is endemic, Epomophorus gambianus poussarguesi.[14]

Carnivores

Carnivores reported are: spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), cheetahs, leopards and wild dogs.[19][20][21][22]

Rodents

Rodents include Zenkerella insignis, Prionomys batesi, Hylomyscus fumosus and two endemic species of mouse; Mus goundae in the north and Mus oubanguii from the south.[14] Also found are Giant otter shrew (Potamogale velox), Gambian rat (Cricetomys gambianus), Pousargues's mongoose, (Dologale dybowskii), checkered elephant-shrew (Rhynchocyon cirnei), Delany's swamp mice (Delanymyinae), and Allen's squirrel galago, Galago alleni.[20][21][22][24]

Reptiles[edit]

Reptiles of the Central African Republic as listed in the laws of the land are: Geochelone sulcata, Giant tortoise, Varanus, python, and crocodile.[13]

Birds[edit]

Avifauna of the CRA forests includes lesser woolly bat (Kerivoula lanosa), Veldkamp's bat (Nanonycteris veldkampii), grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus), African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer), agile mangabey (Cercocebus agilis), grey-cheeked hornbill (Bycanistes subcylindricus), shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), yellow-fronted canary (Serinus mozambicus), Dzanga robin (Stiphrornis sanghensis), Hartlaub's Duck (Pteronetta hartlaubii), Ostrich (struthio camelus), Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis), Pelican, Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Shoebill (balaeniceps rex), Hamerkop (scopus umbretta), Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis) and raptors and water birds.[13][20][21][22] In the Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park alone 379 species of birds have been sighted, which can be seen from observation platforms built in the park or by taking a boat ride on the Sangha River or its tributary, the Mossapoula River.[24]

Insects[edit]

Lepidoptera

Conservation[edit]

There was a time when Central African Republic was given the epithet "an animal paradise". However, over the centuries, this situation changed even though several parks and reserves were created. As a result of uncontrolled poaching, the number of elephants dropped from 100,000 to less than 10,000 and the rhinoceros almost disappeared.[25]

To conserve the rich wild life resources of the Central African Republic has therefore been a major issue of concern, in spite of establishing, with legal ordinances, national Parks, game reserves and so forth. The main reasons for this has been the vastness and impoverished status of the country as a whole. However, the effectiveness of wildlife crime law enforcement appears to be working now with the Central African Ministry of Water and Forests and the Central Police, with technical support from international environmental organizations such as WWF playing an effective role, to punish high-level traffickers with penal servitude and fines; a case cited is of a trafficker sentenced to a jail term of 6 months and a fine.[26]

In the conservation efforts, WWF has persuaded the Baka, indigenous hunter-gatherers known as pygmies of Central African Republic to work for the conservation of the wild life in their homeland on which they subsisted. In a wild life reserve exclusively devoted to preserve the rights of the pygmies as also to prevent deforestation, bushmeat hunting and human migration, the Baka community has extended full cooperation and effective participation. By honouring the traditional rights of the community to fish, hunt and gather food, and also providing them alternate employment as trackers and park rangers with health care, and with income generated from ecotourism, there is an encouraging sign of elephant poaching figures showing drastic downward trend.[27]

The forest department of Central African Republic has introduced new forest codes in 2008 to ensure better management of the forest resources on a sustainable basis to regulate and preserve the biodiversity by balancing the growth and employment requirements with due attention to check desertification. Under the new laws, border control inspectors with mobile squads to check the movement of lumber crossing the nation's borders, to enhance revenues from forestry with due cognisance of the forestry and wild life sources of the country have been introduced. A financial mechanism has also been introduced at a communal level for local management of funds.[28]

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

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