About the Park

Only a few areas of undisturbed lowland tropical forest remain in central Africa. The tropical moist forests of southwestern Central African Republic (CAR) are the country’s last strongholds of these diverse habitats. These lowland tropical forests are also home to people representing a range of ethnic groups, including many different groups of indigenous hunter-gatherer people like the BaAka. Of economic importance for food and other forest products for the people who live in and near them, the forests are also an integral part of the spiritual and cultural life of the BaAka and other hunter-gatherer people.
To protect these forests in a way that respects and maintains local culture and allows for socioeconomic development of the local community, in 1986 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) helped establish the Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Special Reserve (3,159 square kilometers) and the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park (11,220 square kilometers) in southwestern CAR. The park and reserve together constitute the Dzanga-Sangha protected area system, which links with protected areas in Cameroon (Nki, Boumba Bek, Lobeke, and Dja), northern Congo (Odzala and Nouabale-Ndoki), and Gabon (Minkebe) to form a network of protected areas covering a very high percentage of the Northwestern Congolian lowland forest ecoregion, one of WWF’s Global 200 ecoregions.

Transborder initiatives like those that led to the creation of this network of protected areas have laid the foundations for ecoregion- based conservation, an approach by which WWF can implement comprehensive and integrated biodiversity conservation programs. Through this approach, WWF and its partners strive to avoid duplication of effort and to harmonize biodiversity conservation plans across national jurisdictions. The results will be more efficient and effective conservation of specific sites like Dzanga-Sangha and Dzanga-Ndoki in the protected area network.

Biodiversity

The Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve and Dzanga-Ndoki National Park host spectacular intact populations of key forest fauna. These fauna include one of the largest intact populations of forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), as well as western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), giant forest hogs (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni), bush pigs (Potamochoerus porous), and sitatungas (Tragelaphus spekei). Bongos (Tragelaphus euryceros), African forest buffaloes (Syncerus caffer nanus), and six species of duiker (Cephalophus) are also common in this forest. A forest robin (Turdidae spp.) believed to be endemic to this area has recently been discovered in Dzanga- Sangha.

Of the 20 primate species found in CAR, the 16 species inhabiting the lowland forests range from dwarf galagos (Galago demidovii) to huge gorillas. There are six species of Cercopithecus and two species of Cercocebus, the agile crested mangabey (C. galeritus) and the grey cheeked mangabey (C. albigena). The striking black and white colobus monkey (Colobus guereza) and the red colobus (Colobus badius tephroseceles) also occur here. Western lowland gorillas are most frequently found in secondary forest and light gap areas, but they also regularly use primary forest and marshy areas.

In CAR elephants remain in significant numbers only in the Dzanga- Sangha forest area. In many other areas, elephants have been virtually eliminated by ivory poachers. Because elephants have a profound effect on the forest ecology, they are keystone species. Their “bulldozing” may inhibit regrowth in secondary patches in lowland forests. By feeding on bark and wood, as well as “mining” for minerals around tree roots, the elephants create treefall gaps. These sundrenched “light gaps” become a tangle of herbaceous vegetation that provides food for, gorillas and shelter for duikers., As they dig for minerals with tusk and trunk, elephants create and maintain herb-filled forest glades, or “bais,” that provide forage and meet the mineral requirements of species such as bongo, buffalo, and sitatunga., For the BaAka people the network of elephant trails is also a thoroughfare that eases their travel through the dense forest.