Gabon's National Parks: Safe Havens For The Country's Wildlife

An elephant and her offspring at the Loango National Park.
An elephant and her offspring at the Loango National Park.

Wildlife Of Gabon: Flora And Fauna

Gabon is located along the equator on the west-central coast of Africa. It experiences a warm, humid climate and is covered in rainforests, rivers, grasslands, and lagoons. These natural habitats provide homes for a number of species and wildlife.

In terms of flora, Gabon has around 7,000 native, vascular plant species. Of these plants, approximately 22% are endemic, meaning they can only be found in this country. The vast majority of Gabon, 85%, is covered in tropical forests. Of the 300 tree species, some grow up to 196 feet in height.

The animal species living in Gabon is just as varied as the plant species. There are approximately 190 recorded species here. This includes populations of: 64,000 common chimpanzees; 35,000 gorillas; and 50,000 forest elephants. Other mammals found in this country include hippopotamus, mongoose, leopard, antelope, buffalo, and jackal. Additionally, 604 bird species can be found throughout Gabon.

Threats To The Wildlife Of Gabon

Some of the biggest threats to the wildlife of Gabon include habitat destruction and illegal poaching. Habitats are being destroyed here mainly due to deforestation, which is carried out by the logging industry. Demand for wood and for increased agricultural practice have encouraged deforestation to occur. The loss of trees in a forest has a chain effect, which begins with diminishing plant species. When certain plant species are lost, animals that rely on these plants as a major part of their diet also begin to disappear. As these animals begin to disappear, the same can be said of predator species.

An increasing population has led to an increased demand for meat. Additionally, some species are highly valued on the black market, which has resulted in a significant number of poaching activities throughout Gabon. Poachers often kill threatened and endangered species as well.

The Need To Conserve: Establishment Of National Parks In The Country

The first national parks of Gabon were established in 2002. Then-President Omar Bongo created the country’s first National Agency for National Parks, responsible for managing national parks and conserving their wildlife and resources. It set aside 13 areas as protected national parks in its first year by working closely with President Bongo. These parks cover a land area of 7,010,700 acres and a marine area of 319,520 acres. Together, these national parks make up over 10% of the country’s territory.

The Present Role Of The National Parks Of Gabon

The national parks of Gabon play an important role in curbing the threats to this country’s forests and animal species. Additionally, the government believed that by creating these parks, it could boost its eco-tourism industry and reduce its reliance on the petroleum industry. Today, tourists can visit a few of the parks. One of the most common activities is going on safari to spot birds and animals. Several of the national parks, however, cannot be accessed by the public. Since its establishment, the National Agency for National Parks has also coordinated with other African governments to help increase the number of protected conservation areas throughout Africa. This coordination has helped to create programs aimed at reducing illegal ivory poaching (killing elephants for their tusks).

National parks in Gabon have done more than protect vulnerable and threatened species and habitats. They have also worked to conserve some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country, ensuring that Gabon’s natural heritage will be passed down to future generations. Below is a list of the National Parks of Gabon.

Gabon's National Parks: Safe Havens For The Country's Wildlife

Akanda National Park540 km2 (210 sq mi)
Batéké Plateau National Park2,034 km2 (785 sq mi)
Birougou National Park690 km2 (270 sq mi)
Crystal Mountains National Park1,200 km2 (460 sq mi)
Ivindo National Park3,000 km2 (1,200 sq mi)
Loango National Park1,550 km2 (600 sq mi)
Lopé National Park4,910 km2 (1,900 sq mi)
Mayumba National Park870 km2 (340 sq mi)
Minkébé National Park7,570 km2 (2,920 sq mi)
Moukalaba-Doudou National Park4,500 km2 (1,700 sq mi)
Mwangné National Park1,160 km2 (450 sq mi)
Pongara National Park929 km2 (359 sq mi)
Waka National Park1,060 km2 (410 sq mi)

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