World Wetlands Day in Gabon

02/02/2007

Three new Ramsar sites



Gabon names three new Ramsar sites for World Wetlands Day

Gabon joined the Ramsar Convention in early 1987 and named three large Wetlands of International Importance at that time. Now the Direction Générale de l'Environnement et de la Protection de la Nature in Libreville has chosen the occasion of World Wetlands Day 2007 to designate three new sites as well. Financial support from Switzerland, in the form of a project under Ramsar's Swiss Grant for Africa, was helpful in the preparation of the site data. Ramsar's Evelyn Moloko has prepared these brief site descriptions for the Annotated Ramsar List.

The Parc National Akanda (54,000 hectares, 00°37'N 009°33'E) in Province de l'Estuaire is located about 15 km from Libreville, the capital city. This low-altitude zone is dominated by 35,000 ha of relatively undisturbed marine mangroves - it also contains swampy forests and grassy savannah that are home to several plant and animal species as well as a nesting zone for migratory birds, such as the 35,000 to 40,000 Palearctic Waders. It is an important feeding area for endangered marine turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea and Dermochelys coriacea), provides refuge for birds such as Calidris minuta, Pluvialis squatarola, the endemic Apalis flavida and Laniarius bicolor, and is a major habitat and breeding ground for fishes and crustaceans (Ethmalosa fimbriata and Mugil cephalus). Inputs from the Corisco and Mondah bays and significant annual rainfall of up to 3300 mm/yr leave the region constantly submerged and the resulting vegetation regulates the flow of rivers, important for the overall stability of the site. A variety of rites and dances are practiced due to the remarkable ethnic diversity present (Fang, Benga, Sékiani). Inhabitants benefit from fishing, agriculture, hunting, tourism and other recreational activities. Chief threats come from over-exploitation of mangrove plants (especially wood), over-fishing, disorganised tourism within the site, and increasing urbanization in the area. The on-going elaboration of a management plan for the National Park may provide solutions to these threats. Ramsar site no. 1652.

The Parc National Pongara (92,969 hectares, 00°12'N 009°37'E) is located east of the Congo Basin forest, on the southern shores of the Gabon estuary, and includes a wide range of mangroves and forest types (riverine, swampy, littoral and flooded), grassy savannas and several rivers, notably Remboué, Igombiné and Gomgoué. It is an important breeding ground for the critically endangered Lea Thery Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), provides shelter for the critically endangered Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), endangered Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), and Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), as well as gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), vulnerable elephants (Loxodonta africana), an important population of migratory birds and up to 10,000 hibernating Palearctic waders. Plant species such as the mangrove trees (Avicennia sp, Rhizophora sp) and the herbaceous Acrostichum aureum help to regulate and stabilize the water flow. The inhabitants of this site exploit forest wood, practice hunting, agriculture (banana, cassava and pepper) and especially fishing - the site is referred to as one of the centers of nourishment for the whole region. However, non-selective fishing, hunting and forest exploitation both within and around the site pose a threat to the equilibrium of the ecosystem. In addition to the awareness-raising activities carried out by the National Commission for National Parks, a management plan is being developed. Ramsar site no. 1653.

Site Ramsar des Monts Birougou (536,800 ha; 001°58'S 012°17'E) is also a National Park and comprises forests, swamps, savannah, falls, caves, valleys, and mountainous zones between 800 and 900m, which are the source of the Nyanga and Ngounié rivers and their main tributaries. The woody and non-woody products of the forest provide resources for feeding, building, clothing and construction of artistic objects. The diversity of this ecosystem gives it a rich flora as well as one of the most remarkable faunas in Africa. Primates are dominant, with about 20 different species found in the Birougou Mountains. The endangered Gorilla (Gorilla g. gorilla), chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), the vulnerable sun-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus solatus), mandril (Mandrillus sphinx), the West African dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis), the forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis) and the savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana africana), amongst others, are found here. The area is noted for its cultural and religious value in the country. Fishing with chemical products, over-exploitation of forest and mining practiced on the outskirts pose a threat. In the absence of a management plan, the Advisory Council for National Parks in Gabon is making plans for putting in place certain management activities such as evaluation of land use zones by the population and sensitization of local administrative authorities and the population on national parks. Ramsar site no. 1654.

Akanda National Park

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