ODZALA-KOKOUA NATIONAL PARK
The gorilla habituation programme progressed, the third intake of eco-guards completed their training and were deployed in the park and the project to re-develop cocoa plantations as an alternative livelihood to bush meat poaching thrived.
The shortage of staff accommodation and repairs to infrastructure were a key focus. Construction began on an additional management house and two bungalows at Mbomo for staff. As an additional security measure, a bamboo fence was erected around the park headquarters. Work began on the Eastern base access road and a control post and boom gate were installed at the entry access. There was ongoing maintenance to the Mboko Road, the potholes in the Lango Road were repaired and planks were replaced at the Bangashou Bridge to replace those that were broken. To help the monitoring teams in the gorilla habituation programme, a radio was installed at Dzebe bai, as part of the initiative to reconnect all the research camps with the main monitoring room at park headquarters.
Wildlife and Biodiversity
Gorilla frequency was highest at Dzebe baie followed by Romani and Loukoue. The area between Dzebe and Lebango was selected as the first site for habituation and a network of trails was opened to facilitate the programme. One group with good behavior was observed, their behavior being determined by the Silverback in the group. A collaboration was entered into with Stony Brook University in New York State in the USA for additional input from their primate experts on the gorilla habituation programme. Dr Patrice Mongu who is driving the habituation is affiliated to the university.
Elephant frequency was highest at Romani and Loukoue baies and included the identification of three new individuals at Loukoue.
A bird inventory was undertaken to capture identifying photographs and the songs of 115 species. It will be used to update the Odzala bird check-list.
A range of patrols were conducted including 43 long patrols (10 days or longer, 24 short patrols, and two night patrols. Twenty special mission investigations of five days each were also conducted to react on intelligence. Seven poachers were arrested and appeared in court in connection with poaching. Two elephant carcasses, a giant pangolin and a Colobus monkey carcass were confiscated at a control post. They were remanded in custody and are awaiting sentencing. In addition, seven old ivory tusks were recovered in the park.
Fifteen poacher camps discovered inside the park by eco-guard units were destroyed and a significant number of guns and equipment used in poaching was confiscated. The list included: four AK47s, two shotguns, a hunting rifle and 2, 740 rounds of ammunition. Snares continued to be a major challenge for the park; a total of 2,731 were removed during the second quarter.
The third intake of eco guards completed their training and were deployed in the park. The training of the 45 recruits brings to 102 the total number of eco guards in the Odzala law enforcement unit.
As part of a major initiative to advance the benefits of conservation among Congolese youth, Odzala launched its conservation education programme. The initiative is focused on promoting not only Odzala but, the importance of conservation and the protection of fauna and flora in the entire central African region.
The park team conducted conservation lessons at four schools in Brazzaville, all of which were well received, the first step in a comprehensive collaboration between the French Embassy, Congolese schools and the park.
A series of broadcasts on a local radio station radio highlighted the security benefits for local communities that flow from Odzala's law enforcement efforts and also publicised the anonymous tip off and reward system offered by the park for information about suspicious and illegal activities, including poaching.
Earlier this year, four nurseries were set up at old cocoa plantations outside the park to nurture 44,000 seedlings, a project designed to encourage cocoa growing as an alternative to illegal hunting. So far, 26,000 of the seedlings have matured into young trees and have been planted.
Fifty five guests spent a total of 57 nights at the two luxury Congo Conservation Company (CCC) Camps, Lango and Ngaga. Revenue generated by park fees from guests to the lodges as well as from day visitors totaled US$2,000. Lango and Ngaga were closed for refurbishment during June and were scheduled to re-open at the beginning of July.