WCS Congo

Conkouati-Douli NP

Created in 1999 Conkouati-Douli is the newest and the second largest of the three national parks in Republic of Congo.Situated in the southwest of Congo, on the Atlantic coast, the Conkouati-Douli National Park is the most ecologically diverse habitat in Congo. The borders of the protected area extend from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, through beach and coastal habitat, lagoons and mangroves, savannah and wetlands to the mountainous zones of the Mayombian forest and the Niari savannah. The area is consequently home to an extraordinarily diverse range of fauna, with marine species such as manatees, marine turtles, dolphins and whales, and many terrestrial threatened species, such as forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, mandrills and forest buffalo.

The National Park covers an area of 5045 km2 and includes a new zoning system, within which there are a terrestrial and marine core integrally protected areas where no resource extraction is permitted, surrounded by a terrestrial and marine bufferzone or 'eco-development' zone, where resident communities may carry out durable subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering firewood. Interior Regulations of Access and Resource use are being developed for both use zones, as well as a 5 year management plan to provide a legal basis to address current threats and conservation priorities.

 

Conservation Challenges

The Conkouati-Douli National Park covers two Districts, Nzambi and Madingo-Kayes, and two main roads (a coastal and a forest road) connect the Park with Congo's economic capital Pointe Noire, located 100km away. Some 7,000 people live in 28 villages that surround the national park in 2012, of which about 3500 in the 14 coastal villages of the District of Nzambi and around 3,500 in the 14 forest villages of the District of Madingo-Kayes. The coastal people are of Vili ethnic origin and settled in the area in the 13th Century, whereas people from villages along the forest road come from various forest ethnic origins. The forest tribes arrived with the industrial logging concessions and settled along the forest road less than 100 years ago. Some villages are less than 20 years old. The coastal people make their living primarily from fishing and agriculture, whereas the forest people tend to rely more on agriculture, hunting and employment in the logging concessions.

More than 50% of the population are aged under 16, while 80% of the people between 16 and 25 are unemployed. Industrial mining, logging, fishing and petroleum (offshore and onshore) explorations and exploitations in and around Conkouati impose several impacts and challenges. These include oilspils on beaches from offshore platforms, bushmeat consumption of the many workers during onshore explorations, facilitating access to the parc through creating logging and seismic exploration routes, over-exploitation of fish and threats to local fishermen and marine mammals by illegal trawlers (mostly Asian).

Local threats come mainly in the form of over exploitation of natural resources and use of unsustainable local exploitation techniques, as well as organized poaching and traffic of bushmeat and wood to fuel the growing demand of these resources in the nearby (<150km) and growing economic capital of Congo, Pointe Noire. Despite these many threats and challenges, large mammal populations have increased substantially since the arrival of WCS on site in 2000 through community outreach and sensitization efforts, applied research, marine and terrestrial law enforcement and collaboration with PALF (website), and through the development of constructive agreements with the private sector exploring and exploiting in the ecodevelopment zone of the park.  Park management continues to heavily rely on international donor funds, without which Conkouati would have been depleted of its fauna today. Major donors are and have been USFWS, USAID/ CARPE-CBNP, UNESCO/ FFEM, NEU family. New donors such as the Size of Wales (websitte) may play a growing role in conservation of CDNP in the future. By 2012 WCS negotiated an agreement to minimize environmental impact and provide financial support for law enforcement from private sector (Maurel & Prom since 2008 and Sintoukola Potassium since 2011). The Government of Congo contributes between 1% and 5% of the annual Park management costs.  Tourism finances roughly 7,5% of annual park management costs but has the potential to grow to 30% provided sufficient funds are found to allow elaborating tourism infrastructure.

 

Conservation Approach

The Conkouati Douli National Park is limited by the Gabonese border to the north and west and by the ocean to the southwest. In its present form, it covers 5050km2 and is the protected area with the highest habitat diversity in Congo. These are (at increasing distances from the sea) the littoral fringe, including littoral savannahs and forests; a mosaic of savannahs, marshes, lakes and lagoons interspersed by marsh forests and sublittoral forest; the Mayombian forest, much of it in mountainous country; and finally the inland savannahs of the Niari plain. The Mayombian forest has been undisturbed by forest exploitation for about 20 years. The part furthest from the villages has been subject to almost no hunting since the forestry companies left the area.

There is a correspondingly high level of wildlife diversity. Endangered forest mammals such as forest elephants, western gorillas and chimpanzees are found alongside savannah wildlife such as waterbuck, hippo, elephant, buffalo, bushbuck, jackals. Marine wildlife such as turtles, humpback whales and dolphins are found in the shores off the mainland. Many of these species are threatened or endangered and are listed on CITES Appendix I and II. Despite these many threats and challenges, large mammal populations have increased substantially since the arrival of WCS on site in 2000 through community outreach and sensitization efforts, applied research, marine and terrestrial law enforcement and collaboration with PALF (website), and through the development of constructive agreements with the private sector exploring and exploiting in the ecodevelopment zone of the park. Ecotourism was launched in 2008 and local revenues generated from tourism for the local communities and to help finance park management had quadrupled by 2011.  To reduce dependence on international donor funds, tourism infrastructure will gradually be elaborated in the next few years. For contact details to visit Conkouati (see brochures).

 

Activities

The site was first gazetted as the Conkouati Wildlife Reserve in 1980, although part of the Reserve was de-gazetted and allocated to logging companies in 1989.

The Conkouati Reserve was under IUCN management for five years between 1994 and 1999, during which period a management infrastructure was created and staff were recruited and trained. GEF (Global Environment Fund, World Bank) funding finished in June 1999 for Project Conkouati, then under IUCN management. Some of the remaining funds were then used by project management to retain a skeleton staff (including 6 eco-guards); which continued until November 1999.

In 1999, Conkouati-Douli Game Reserve was upgraded to National Park status and enlarged to its present size of 5045 km2, and a management plan was produced by IUCN that defined a complex zoning plan. The area was divided up into 10 different management units which include two areas for industrial logging ('zones à usages multiples'), two ex-logging concession areas which receive 5 year total protection to help restore its resources ('zones de protection temporaire'), two areas which receive long-term total protection ('zones de protection integrale'), two areas for community use ('zones d'ecodeveloppement') and a marine extension of which the protection status was never defined. The zone that had full protected area status in 1999 was about 1315km2  ,but this was increased to more than 3000km2  as a result of defining half of the ocean part as totally protected and as a result of the termination of logging concessions that became fully protected zones.

 

Threats

The Conkouati-Douli National Park covers two Districts, Nzambi and Madingo-Kayes, and two main roads (a coastal and a forest road) connect the Park with Congo's economic capital Pointe Noire, located 100km away.

Some 7,000 people live in 28 villages that surround the national park, of which about 3,500 in the 14 coastal villages of the District of Nzambi and around 3,150 in the 14 forest villages of the District of Madingo-Kayes. The coastal people are of Vili ethnic origin and settled in the area in the 13th Century, whereas people from villages along the forest road come from various forest ethnic origins. The forest tribes arrived with the industrial logging concessions and settled along the forest road less than 100 years ago. Some villages are less than 20 years old.

The coastal people make their living primarily from fishing and agriculture, whereas the forest people tend to rely more on agriculture, hunting and employment in the logging concessions. More than 50% of the population are aged under 16, while 80% of the people between 16 and 25 are unemployed.

 

Key Staff

Hilde Vanleeuwe
Project Director
All Conkouati-Douli Staff >>

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WCS Congo Program
B.P. 14537 Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
+(242) 05 522 6542

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