WCS Congo

Mbeli Bai Research Study

Mbeli Bai is a 13 ha large swampy (natural) forest clearing in the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park with minimum levels of disturbance. Since 1995, researchers of the Wildlife Conservation Society have been continuously monitoring the wildlife visiting Mbeli Bai from an observation platform overlooking the clearing with the goal to ensure the long-term protection of gorillas and other forest mammals via several research and conservation based objectives.

In particular the Mbeli Bai Study (MBS) aims to enhance our knowledge of western gorillas (and other elusive large mammals) and improve their conservation status in the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, the Sangha Tri-National and elsewhere through applied research, capacity building of nationals, local community outreach programs, support of ecotourism activities and international awareness raising. The MBS aims to inform conservation strategies by increasing our understanding of and highlighting the importance of forest clearings (bais) and determining the ecological factors influencing large mammal density around Mbeli Bai.

Today the Mbeli Bai Study (MBS) has provided unique insights into the social organization and behavior of western lowland gorillas that have attracted significant international media attention while the continuous monitoring of individuals (over 400 gorillas) provides essential baseline life history (birth rates, mortality rates, inter-birth intervals, age at first parturition) and demographic data from an intact gorilla population which can be used to model population dynamics.This information can inform conservation strategies such as key actions and habitat needed for protection and recovery after declines. One of the most spectacular behaviours discovered at Mbeli Bai is the first observation of tool use in wild gorillas.

Our research is not limited to western gorillas, as we have been continuously monitoring the forest elephants (>350), sitatungas (>90)and forest buffaloes (>30) visiting the clearing.

Another aim of the MBS is to understand the ecological (e.g. density and availability of food resources like fruiting trees, aquatic and terrestrial herbaceous vegetation) and social importance of forest clearings for large mammals and its influence on large mammal density. We investigate how gorillas use bais and how bais, in turn, shape gorilla population dynamics. This information will help to formulate planning for habitat zoning (i.e. in logging concessions that are situated around NNNP).

The consistent, long-term researchers’ presence also provides direct habitat protection in the south-west of NNNP - an area that was a major elephant poaching site before the 90’s. Since the initiation of the MBS, no poaching incidents have been observed in the study site.

In addition the personal of the Mbeli Bai Study has created the conservation education project „Club Ebobo“ for the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park and continuous to improve our educational Ecotourism program to raise international attention and highlight the importance of the conservation of Central African forests.

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WCS Congo Program
B.P. 14537 Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
+(242) 05 722 7411

Key Staff

Thomas Breuer
Project Director

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