Gabon

Extension of Plateau Bateke National Park in Gabon

Project Cost: $725,296

Funding Raised: $725,296

$2.11 per acre (1 acre = 43,560 sq ft)
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Gabon created their national parks nearly 20 years ago, but did so with inadequate geographic, ecological and sociological expertise on protected area mapping and creation. The proposed long-term strategy was always to revisit the details of the park boundaries and gazette other areas to optimize the protected area network. Rainforest Trust and local partner Gabon National Parks Agency (ANPN) are now taking the initial step toward this goal with a proposal to expand Plateau Batéké National Park. This expansion is part of an ambitious plan to protect 30% of Gabon’s land and sea, preserving its spectacular biodiversity for future generations. Plateau Batéké National Park is in southeastern Gabon, protecting the rolling savannas bordering the Republic of the Congo. Rainforest Trust and ANPN seek $725,296 to secure an additional 344,460 acres north of the park. This expansion would increase the total size of the park to 848,612 acres and include a woodier savanna Key Biodiversity Area that harbors biome-restricted species. The new territory would also add a large block of wildlife-dense rainforest with several natural forest clearings where wildlife like African Elephants congregate. From great apes to birds of prey, many threatened and endangered species will benefit from this increased protection.

In recent years, land use pressure from logging, agroindustry and mining has brought new resource prospecting to the area. Now may be the last chance to add this land to the park and secure the unique wilderness of the Plateau Batéké while improving tourism and livelihood opportunities for nearby communities.

Photo: A Critically Endangered Western Gorilla and her infant. Photo by Bryan Curran/Rainforest Trust.

Fast Facts

Location:
Gabon

Size/Acres:
344,460 acres

Key Species:
Western Gorilla (CR), Slender-snouted Crocodile (CR), Chimpanzee (EN), Grey Parrot (EN), White-bellied Pangolin (VU), Giant Ground Pangolin (VU), Tawny Eagle (VU)

Habitat:
Rainforest and savanna

Threats:
Logging, mining, poaching, agricultural encroachment

Action:
Designation

Local Partner:
Gabon National Parks Agency

Financial Need:
$725,296

Price per Acre:
$2.11

Total Metric Tons of Carbon Storage:
20,955,000

Biodiversity

This region is home to the Critically Endangered Western Gorilla and Slender-snouted Crocodile, the Endangered Chimpanzee and Grey Parrot and the Vulnerable Lion, Leopard, African Golden Cat, White-bellied Pangolin, Giant Ground Pangolin, African Elephant, Tawny Eagle and Martial Eagle.

Scientists have confirmed a total of 655 plant species, 373 bird species, 47 mammal species and 14 reptile species in the park and buffer zone. Plateau Batéké’s distinct and varied species composition arises from its rich mix of habitats, ranging from vast savannas with dense riverine networks to large tracts of lowland tropical rainforest, broken only by forest clearings rich in minerals that attract elephants. No other park on Earth can claim this diversity of rainforest and savanna species.  

Photo: Two Vulnerable African Elephants. Photo by Paul Telfer.
 

Challenges

Currently, the most direct threats to the region are illegal and commercial hunting, including cross-border poaching from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and domestic ivory poaching. But protection of Plateau Batéké has been poorly financed in the past.

Aerial surveys in 2016 were alarming, revealing rampant human activity inside the park and substantially more African Buffalo, elephant and wildlife trails outside the park than within. Notably, researchers estimated that the western part of the proposed extension had 25 times more buffalo than inside the park. Yet surveys in 2019, after the park implemented emergency ranger patrols, documented both a steep decline in signs of poaching and an increase wildlife. These results proved that Plateau Batéké patrol teams can produce positive impacts when provided necessary resources. Land use pressures pose imminent threats to the region. The government is encouraging the growth of agroindustry and the development of a Special Economic Zone. Prospecting teams have already begun surveying the site for development. Logging and plantation forestry are also potential threats, with one logging permit situated partially inside the proposed expansion and between key elephant “bais” or waterholes. Exploitation of this land would hamper elephant movements between rare mineral clearings. Without increased protection, land use change and habitat loss will soon cause irreversible damage to the area.  

Photo: An Elephant swimming in the park. Photo by Bryan Curran/Rainforest Trust.
 

Communities

No communities live in the national park or proposed extension, but three villages fall within 5 kilometers of the proposed site and would potentially be within the extended park’s buffer zone.

Two of the villages maintain traditional-practice fishing rights in the existing park and, as noted in the Plateau Batéké management plan, the expansion will need to identify similar special-use areas. Although the park is bordered on three sides by the Republic of the Congo, no Congolese villages are near the proposed extension. Like every national park in Gabon, Plateau Batéké has a local consultation and management committee made up of community, industry, government, civil society and park stakeholders. This well-established committee will play a key role in determining how communities will benefit or work to help sustain the park. Right now, there aren’t many employment options in this area. But a well-managed national park has potential for employment opportunities as park staff and in the tourism industry.  

Photo: Plateau Batéké National Park. Photo by M. Bonnet and J.M. Fay.
 

Solutions

This 344,460-acre expansion is designed to boost habitat and species diversity, safeguarding the stunning landscapes in a region poised for agroindustrial development.

Researchers will conduct biological and sociological studies to map the optimal new northern border of the park. Working in conjunction with the consultation and management committee and international conservation organization Panthera, the park limits will be legally amended. Plateau Batéké is an irreplaceable sanctuary that deserves increased protection to become functional, and eventually offer preservation, border stability and opportunities for employment and tourism. (A troop of Western Gorillas. Photo by M. Bonnet.)