Important Piece in the Congo Conservation Puzzle in Place! 

Posted February 17, 2023 by Lily Maynard

Last week, The Republic of Congo announced the growth of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park by adding an important piece to the landscape puzzle – the Djéké Triangle. This valuable and newly protected landscape is the only place in the world home to both gorillas and chimpanzees! The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has supported the conservation research team in this landscape for years.  Join us in celebrating this inspiring step to conserving a future with great apes and other amazing wildlife. 

Cincinnati Enquirer journalist Meg Vogel traveled to the Congo with Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard, primate curator Ron Evans, and Lincoln Park Zoo’s Dr. David Morgan in 2018 to see gorilla field conservation in action. Check out the amazing images and descriptions of what they encountered where gorillas live. 

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Republic of Congo Expands National Park to Include Gorilla-Rich, Unlogged Forest 

This growth of the national park comes after more than 25 years of scientific research in the area, including the longest-running gorilla research site in Western Equatorial Africa, and extensive community consultation to design a management plan that benefits both the local communities and wildlife. 

The 95 square kilometer (a.k.a. 36 square mile) forest area adjacent to the park will benefit both wildlife and communities. The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is committed to global projects that promote coexistence by supporting the needs of both people and wildlife. With the new status of a National Park, ecotourism and other environmentally friendly income initiatives can support the nearby communities who have long coexisted with many remarkable species in an intact forest.  

The Djéké Triangle is a habitat full of many threatened animals, including populations of critically endangered western lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, and forest elephants, along with bongo antelopes and other large mammals, plus more than 300 bird species and 1,000 plant species.  The Republic of Congo’s Parliament reinforced the future of these species by passing an act to protects the Djéké Triangle.  Following the addition of the Djéké Triangle, the Park now covers a total of 4334 km2

The gazettement of the Djéké Triangle into the Park was made possible by the Park’s long-standing collaboration with research teams from the Lincoln Park Zoo, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the FSC-certified logging companies that operate around the Park, and the government and park agencies. The Cincinnati Zoo conservation team has helped to reinforce these teams for years with direct funding and project partnership with the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation. Supporting the work done by researchers, including Lincoln Park Zoo’s Dr. David Morgan, has helped provide evidence that this region has high conservation value and deserves legal protection. We are thrilled with this huge step in ape conservation efforts. 

“The inclusion of the Djéké triangle into the park not only provides protection for this area of high-integrity forest and its unique biodiversity, but also secures the customary rights of the communities to access and benefit from resources they depend on, such as honey or caterpillars, since we are now assured that this forest will remain intact in perpetuity,” explains WCS’s Ben Evans, the park’s management unit director. 

The Djéké triangle is an area of global importance for the study of the ecology and behavior of western lowland gorillas, as it is home to Mondika, one of the longest-lasting research sites on this species. Since 1995, three groups of gorillas have been habituated to human presence around Mondika, allowing direct observations of the gorillas in their natural environment. This led to continuous data collection over 25 years, and significant advances in our knowledge of this species, the least well known of the great apes. 

The Mondika research site provides stable employment for over 40 people, the majority of whom are indigenous, as well as capacity building opportunities for Congolese researchers, with important investments in women’s leadership. The ongoing development of tourism, with the upcoming construction of several lodges in the vicinity of the Park, will further increase the economic opportunities related to the Djéké Triangle for local populations. 

“This is an example to follow for the creation and extension of protected areas in the region, which must be done with the best interests of the country, its inhabitants and its wildlife at heart,” commented the Minister of Forest Economy, H.E. Ms. Rosalie Matondo.