The Republic of Congo encompasses an extraordinary diversity of wildlife, habitats and culture; including one of the largest continuous stretches of intact rainforest in central Africa and the indigenous forest people who call it home. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s largest country program has been working to save Congo’s wildlife and wild places for almost three decades. Protecting this astonishing biodiversity means saving wild places that sustain the local people, protect natural resources, and buffer global climate change.
Over the past 25 years WCS Congo has been the government’s principle conservation partner, assisting the Ministry of Forestry Economy and Sustainable Development (MEFDD) in managing wildlife and its habitat in several of the country’s national parks, reserves, and protected area buffer zones. Within these sites WCS is developing and implementing actions for effective wildlife protection; community based natural resource management; ecological monitoring; scientific research; and environmental education. Our approach is specifically tailored to each area we work in and its protection status to enable lasting conservation of these areas while improving the livelihoods of the communities surrounding them. Through this long-term commitment WCS has developed a profound understanding of the ecological and socio-political context for conservation in Congo, and has developed the strong relationships with government, private sector, and local community actors required to make conservation happen.
WCS and the MEFDD have formalized their partnership with the signing of several protocols, which define the roles of each partner in assuring protected areas are managed to international standards. These protected area protocols include Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, Lac Télé Community Reserve, and Conkouati-Douli National Park. Nouabale-Ndoki National Park is considered to be WCS Africa’s flagship protected area and is our first public private partnership for the management of a national park. Recognizing the reality and importance of development, WCS and MEFDD have also partnered with the private sector in logging concessions adjacent to Nouabale-Ndoki and Odzala-Kokua National Parks, assisting them with the sustainable environmental management of their concessions, in an effort to reduce the impact of exploitation on wildlife.
The Republic of Congo is facing a set of unique and expanding conservation challenges and threats, which vary from forest to savannah to coastline.
- Forests: Poaching of elephants for ivory; the commercial bushmeat trade; deforestation and degradation due to large scale extractive industries as well as unsustainable resource management; poorly managed extractive industry (mining, logging, oil); and pollution.
- Savannahs: commercial bushmeat hunting, encroachment into protected areas by agriculture, mining, and construction.
- Coastline and Oceans: Overfishing, bycatch, illegal trawlers, pollution and perturbations from the oil industry, and the targeted poaching of turtles.
Within the Republic of Congo there is the opportunity to save some of the last remaining intact forest wildernesses on the planet. The country additionally encompasses several diverse and unique habitats housing specific assemblages of forest, savannah and marine species. To protect these areas, we are employing some core strategies:
- Developing effective and long-lasting partnerships for terrestrial and marine protected area creation and management
- Encouraging sustainable landscape-scale planning and management
- Improving the livelihoods of local people
- Working with both government and international partners to implement long-term sustainable financing options compatible with conservation, such as eco-tourism and REDD payments
- Employing innovative ideas to take conservation beyond the boundaries of protected areas, such as partnerships with logging concessions on the periphery of protected areas, and tackling key conservation issues within urban areas
- Providing capacity building and training opportunities for the next generation of Congolese conservationists