Congo designates three large new sites

09/10/2012

The Republic of Congo's three latest Ramsar Site designations - Ntokou-Pikounda, Odzala Kokoua, and Vallée du Niari - bring that Contracting Party's total area of coverage under the Convention to 11,335,259 with 10 sites, the third largest total worldwide, after Canada and Chad. The preparations for these new additions to the List were assisted by financial support from the WWF International Freshwater programme.

Brief summary descriptions of the new sites have been prepared for the Annotated Ramsar List by Ms. Ako Charlotte Eyong, Ramsar's Assistant Advisor for Africa, based upon the datasheets submitted with the designation letters.

Site Ramsar Ntokou-Pikounda. 18/09/2012; Sangha, Cuvette; 427,200 ha; 0°10'15''N 16°16'50''E. A complex of permanent freshwater rivers and lakes surrounded by marshes, trees, shrubs and ponds. The diverse habitat types favour a rich biodiversity including several IUCN Red-Listed species such as Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), African elephant (Loxodonta africana), Western lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and Central Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes). The site serves as refuge to several migrating waterbirds, and it supports above 180 fish species and several plant species with great economic value for the local population, who harvest and trade on non-timber forest products and carry out subsistence agriculture, fishing and hunting. It is very important in maintaining the general hydrological balance of the Congo basin and ensuring ground water recharge. In addition to its economic and hydrological values, it is of great cultural, historical and religious value to the resident population. The site is mostly threatened by invasive exotic aquatic plant species, destructive fishing techniques, agriculture by burning, and poaching. Ramsar site no. 2079. Most recent RIS information 2012.

Site Ramsar Odzala Kokoua. 18/09/2012; Cuvette-Ouest, Sangha; 1,300,000 ha; 00°56'00"N 014°52'00"E. National Park. With permanent freshwater rivers surrounded by very dense seasonally flooded freshwater swamp forests and ponds, the site is characterised by semi-evergreen forests, swamp forests, saline marshes, shrubs and a rich savannah forest. The diversity of forest types provide a habitat for a wide range of species including the Lion (Panthera leo) and Buffalo (Syncerus caffer), which are savannah species, and forest primates such as the Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and Western lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), all listed in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. It supports 25 families and over 150 species of indigenous fishes and 108 migratory fish species, as well as 1,062 plant species, including several endemic species, usually harvested by the local population for food and trading in nearby towns. The main activities carried out in the site are agriculture, aquaculture, hunting, and harvesting of non-timber forest products. It is also an eco-touristic site and an ecological research ground. Ramsar site no. 2080. Most recent RIS information 2012.

Site Ramsar Vallée du Niari. 18/09/2012; Niari; 1,581,000 ha; 03°47'S 012°30'E. A complex of permanent freshwater rivers and lakes surrounded by seasonally flooded freshwater swamp forests. It supports a rich diversity of plant and animal species including several IUCN Red-Listed species such as the African elephant (Loxodonta africana), Western lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). It is a migrating path for over 200 waterbird species and serves as a spawning ground and food source for several fish species. Its main hydrological functions include groundwater recharge, flood control, shoreline stabilisation, and sediment trapping. Ecotourism activities, especially bird-watching, are currently being developed in the site. It is of great cultural value to the resident population, who depend on fishing, hunting, agriculture and harvesting of forest products for a source of livelihood. The site is threatened by slash and burn agriculture and wood logging. This has promoted the current development of a management plan for its exploitation. Ramsar site no. 2081. Most recent RIS information 2012.

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