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The Congo Creates Its Fifth National Park, Protecting Great Apes, Elephants, And More

The Republic of Congo may be in the top 40 when it comes to the world's most dangerous countries in which to live, but at least the animal kingdom in the African nation has another sanctuary. On Wednesday, it officially announced the creation of a fifth national park which will double as a refuge for endangered wildlife that includes forest elephants and great apes.

The government has created Ogooué-Leketi National Park, which covers 1,350 square miles. When joined with Gabon's Batéké Plateau National Park on a border shared by the two countries, the territory expands to some 2,120 square miles, an immense space for its natural species to roam in. Within these protected boundaries is a wide variety of terrain of lush forests, picturesque river valleys, and wide-open plains containing wildlife that preservationists declare can't be found anywhere else on the planet.

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[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="4562"]Image result for baby red river hog Via: BT.com[/caption]

That list includes six very rare savannah plant species, side-striped jackals, terrestrial birds called bustards, and even a new species of cisticola, a warbler-like bird. Add to that organic inventory relatively more common species like the western lowland gorilla, central chimpanzee, forest buffalo, red river hog, and the iconic mandrill, and you have a wildlife preserve that buys time for these endangered animals to survive.

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Authorities with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Congo program have been eyeing this part of the Congo since 2004, alongside the government's Ministry of Forestry Economy. It took a great deal of cooperation to get the national park designation in place, since three areas dedicated to logging overlapped with some potential parkland, where companies were cutting down Okoume trees for the plywood market.

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By 2016, the last of the logging ventures left the area, which conservationists believe was not a moment too soon. As earlier as 2010, they noticed great ape populations declining, while elephants that felt threatened by logging projects tended to gather in forest clearances during the evening as opposed to the day.

Despite the official establishment of Ogooué-Leketi National Park, one threat still remains. Commercial hunting still prospers in the Congo, an activity made easier by access to the park area via roads and bridges originally created for the logging industry. To mitigate that threat, the government is working with communities near the park on a management strategy.

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