Conkouati-Douli National Park
|Conkouati-Douli National Park|
Map of the Republic of the Congo
|Location||Kouilou, Republic of the Congo|
|Established||August 14, 1993|
|Governing body||Ministry for National Forestry Commission|
The Conkouati-Douli National Park is a UNESCO recognised coastal national park in the Republic of the Congo. Created by Presidential Decree No. 99-136 on 14 August 1999, it covers an area of 504,950 ha and is located in the Kouilou Department, straddling the districts of Nzambi-Madingo and Kayes in the extreme northwest of the department. It is located near the villages of Cotovindou and Louléma along the border between Congo and Gabon, at the point of intersection with the National Route 5. Conkouati-Douli National Park has is managed by the Ministry of forest Economy and Durable Development (MEFDD) in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The responsibilities of both partners are outline in an agreement protocol. In 2014, the park coordination is assured by a conservator/ coordinatior of MEFDD and a Principal Technical Advisor of WCS. They are assisted by an assictant conservator (MEFDD) and an administrator/ accountant (WCS). The park counts 70 permanent employees of whom 95% are recruited locally. During the annual marine turtle nesting season between October and March every year, another 30 people are recruited locally to monitor the beaches. Activities include community outreach, biological research and tourism development. The park surveillance team counts 36 guards in early 2014.
The park is divided into three zones: An integrally protected zone that is only legally accessible for park staff, guided paying tourists and researchers with valid permits; an ecodevelopment zone with all legal human habitations in which resident people are allowed to use natural resources for subsitence and in a sustainable way and in which industrial exploitation is allowed with the agreement of the appropriate government institutions; the 5 km bufferzone around the park that in which efforts of environmental education and sensitization and socio-economic activities are done. In 2014, some 7000 people live in and around the park: 3500 people spread in 14 villages along the coastal road and 3500 people spread in 14 villages along the forest road. The coast people are essentially of Vili origin, an ethnic group of fishers and traders that settled there since the 13th century. The villages along the forest road contain a mix of over 30 different ethnical groups who came with the industrial forestry sector and settled less than 100 years ago.
The Conkouati-Douli National Park was established on August 14, 1999. However the park has been part of an active area of conservation since at least 1980 and includes area of the former old Reserve of Conkouati. This reserve covered nearly 300,000 hectares but was reduced down to 144,294 hectares by a legal provision of 1989. From 1994 to 1999 the UICN recognised that the area was critically endangered and collaborated with PROGECAP-GEF Congo and financed by the World Bank in agreement with the Congolese authorities until June 1999. Promoted to a national park, Conkouati-Douli has been managed by the Ministry for National Forestry Commission in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) since 1999.
Geography and flora
The Noumbi River flows through the park. The park is characterised by dense forests mized with wetlands, floodplain forests and lagoons. Rhizophora racemosa and Avicennia nititta are common mangroves in the park and aquatic vegetation in lakes and lagoons is composed of Vossia cuspidata, Cteniumnewtnii etc.
Savannahs of the south-west are dominated by Ctenium newtonili, Elytonrus brazzae and Pobeguinea arrecta while those of Cotovindou in the north-east are made up of Hypparrhenia diplandra, Panicum phragmitoides, Pobeguinea arrecta, etc.
CDNP is the most biodiverse park in the country and includes the only marine protected area in Congo. It is a priority site for great apes in the IUCN great ape conservation action plan because it includes around 8,000 central chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and 2,000 Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). The park also houses some 1000 forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis) and is a RAMSAR site for its importance for migratory and wetland birds. Its beaches are amongst the most important in the world for nesting of leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) and 5 species of marine turtles visit the beaches. The marine park includes also a group of around 50 humpback dolphins (Sousa teuzsi). The National Park is home to a vast fauna typical of forest ecosystems of the Congo including elephant, buffalo, gorillas, leopards, Chimpanzees, bushpigs, sitatunga and mandrill. HELP Congo has developed a reintroduction program in the Conkouati-Douli National Park to investigate whether it is feasible to return chimpanzees to their natural environment. Aside from this the park has a number of endangered turtle and dolphin populations.
Threats to conservation
In an ecological Conkouati contains a diversity of local ecosystems which have faced several threats, notably industrial threats from logging, mining, petroleum, and commercial fishing. The existence of a coastal road traversing the park and a forest road elongating the southeast boundary facilitate access to the park by poachers. The local human population is low (<2/km2)but the nearby city of Pointe Noire (at 150 km) fuels natural resource exploitation to feed the growing demands for bushmeat and wood. Chinese owned trawler boats are a serious threat to the marine park. Local threats include essentially unsustainable fishing, hunting and agriculture techniques.
- "Conkouati-Douli National Park". protectedplanet.net.
- "The Conkouati-Douli National Park". The World Database on Protected Areas. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
- "Le Parc National de Conkouati-Douli". UNESCO. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
- "The National park of Conkouati-Douli". HELP. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
- "HELP Congo". HELP. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
- UNESCO site (French)
- Pointe Noire Alive! - Latest news for Park visitors (French)