Wildlife of Gabon
Gabon is a true Eden of Africa, hosting one of the oldest human settlements on Earth and a full array of iconic African wildlife. Gabon’s forests shelter species such as gorillas, chimpanzees, elephants, and mandrills, while its seas contain humpback whales, leatherback turtles, and manatees. Bridging Gabon’s open waters and its pristine forests is one of the most spectacular and environmentally intact coastlines in the world.
The country remains a haven for wildlife due to a history of relative isolation. Today, however, with threats increasing from industrial development, the country needs to find new conservation strategies that will ensure Gabon remains a haven for spectacular wildlife. Gabon’s national parks, established in 2002, are now the cornerstones of such conservation efforts, though much work remains to ensure they continue as a refuge for wildlife.
- Up to 60,000 forest elephants inhabit Gabon’s vast forests. This may be the largest population of forest elephants in central Africa.
- The world’s largest population of leatherback turtles nest on Gabon’s beaches, and a recent study estimates there are 47,000 females alone.
- Around 1,300 mandrills in one troop were observed in Lopé National Park. This is the largest-ever recorded aggregation of primates.
- Many of the Congo Basin’s last great tusker elephants survive in Ivindo National Park and can be seen at Langoue Bai.
- One of the world’s largest congregations of humpback whales breeds in the unspoiled waters off Gabon’s coast.
- Gabon’s coastal lagoons are among the most pristine in Africa, with hippos, manatees, crocodiles, and tarpon.
Gabon is a largely low-lying country with a warm, humid climate. Much of the country is still covered by tropical rainforest and there are also grasslands, savannas, large rivers and coastal lagoons.
Gabon has important populations of many mammals including about 35000 Gorillas, 60000 Forest Elephants and 64000 Common Chimpanzees. 4/5 of Africas gorillas live in Gabon. Other large mammals include the Hippopotamus, Forest Buffalo, Bongo and Red River Hog. A variety of monkeys occur, including large numbers of the Mandrill. Carnivorous mammals include the Leopard and various jackals, mongooses, genets and civets. The West African Manatee is found along coasts and large rivers while the Humpback Whale breeds offshore.
See also List of mammals in Gabon
* Former President Omar Bongo designated a staggering 11 per cent of Gabon’s land mass a National Park – only Costa Rica has a higher proportion of the country given over to conservation.
* Established in September 2002, Loango is the jewel in the crown of the 13 parks. Situated between the Nkomi and Ndogo lagoons, forests, savannahs, wetlands and ocean all come together within its 380,000 acres. With more than 60 miles of uninhabited shoreline, it is widely regarded as one of Africa’s last great coastal wildernesses.
* According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, up to 60,000 forest elephants inhabit the vast forests of Gabon. In Loango they can be spotted wandering the white sand beaches during the rainy season, which lasts from October to April.
* Gabon’s beaches are home to the world’s largest population of leatherback turtles, with a recent study estimating there are 47,000 females alone.
* After South Africa, the world’s biggest concentration and variety (at least 14 at the last count) of whales and dolphins can be found off the Loango coast. Humpback whales head to Gabonese waters during their winter breeding season from June to September.
* Other species to spot include red river hogs, slender-snouted crocodiles, western lowland gorillas, manatees and a huge array of birds.
* Loango is also home to the legendary “surfing hippos”. These were memorably captured on film frolicking in the warm equatorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean by National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols.
Turtle Trove in Gabon (2009)
Scientists discover the world’s largest nesting population of leatherback sea turtles on the beaches of Gabon. The finding offers new hope for the future of this endangered species.
Gabon to Create Huge Park System for Wildlife National Geographic News (2002)
Gabon is to set aside more than 10,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers) of land to form a national park system protecting 13 separate parks.
Conservationists regard Gabon as one of the last pockets of wilderness in Africa. The parks will protect pristine rain forests, mangroves, savannas, ancient forests, lagoons, marshes, rivers, and canyons.
These landscapes provide vital habitat to everything from sea turtles and whales to forest elephants, rhinos, gorillas, buffalo, and numerous plant and bird species found only in Gabon.
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