Ivindo National Park
Ivindo National Park was declared as recently as 2002 by presidential decree; demarcation of the park was completed in 2004. Located in the central-east of the country, bisected by the equator, it was first brought to the attention of the outside world when Mike Fay transversed Ivindo during his famous megatransect expedition in 2000.
In 2001 a research camp was established near Langoué Bai by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the park is managed in the main by the WCS. The main focus of the research team is to monitor the wildlife, particularly large mammals including gorillas, sitatungas, buffalo and elephant. Research at Langoué Bai focuses mainly on elephants and gorillas, and some elephant have been fitted with GPS transmitters to analyze their movements. Other species present are the chimpanzee, forest buffalo, bongo, red river hog, leopard and the slender snouted crocodile.
A butterfly study discovered a thriving, diversified population, including two new species; there have been leopard studies to recognise individual specimens and a red hog observation project. The basic research camp plays host to a small amount of tourists each year. Access to the camp is by foot and visitors carry their own luggage for the duration of the walk. All the activities centre around the Langoué Bai, and visiting the viewing platform overlooking the large forest clearing where gorilla, elephant and sitatunga feed off the succulent grasses.
Apart from the animals, the park has spectacular waterfalls (Koungou, Mingouli, Djidji – see the photo above for the latter); the most impressive in all the equatorial forests of Africa. They are best viewed by air. The total area of the park is 3,000 km² and vegetation is lowland forest – for the most part, pristine. There are very few human settlements within close proximity to the park, other than in the north-eastern sector. The only access into Ivindo is via the Trans-Gabon railway (can catch it from Libreville or Lope National Park), or by private plane landing on a dirt airstrip, or by boat/foot. The rivers flowing through the area are large and expeditions into the interior of the forest are occasionally undertaken by boat. All food/drink arrives by train as there is no road link into Ivindo National Park.
Fishing, hunting and ivory poaching are a constant threat to the wildlife in the area; neighboring forestry companies make constant incursions into the park. A possible future threat emerges with the proposed building of a hydro-electric dam on the Ivindo River and the construction of a railway in close proximity to the park in order to ship iron ore to its north-east corner. An important, indirect threat is the weak and inexperienced government involvement in park protection.
Conservation partners are currently the country’s National Parks Office, Ministry of Water and Forests, Tropical Ecology Research Institute (IRET), FIGET, CARPE, Pond Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation.
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