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Minkébé National Park

Minkébé, Gabon

The largest of Gabon's parks at 7000 sq km, Minkébé is the greatest refuge for elephants in the Congo Basin; there are said to be 30,000 individuals. You'll also find gorillas, forest buffaloes, sitatungas as well as other animals are usually more difficult to find: antelopes such as the endangered bongo, leopards, pythons, and pangolins. Inselbergs formed millions of years ago, rise up above the forest canopy. There are enormous trees and myriad plants including orchids and ferns.

The Fang people once inhabited the Minkébé area but on becoming a protected area the park now has no permanent human population. The name Minkébé derives from the Fang word minkegbe, which means 'valleys' or 'ditches'. Historically, the park was under former French army control in the 1920s.

In 1997, the WWF initiated a management program and established two main centres of forest command, one at Oyem, the other at Makokou. A central camp was also installed at the mouth of the river Nouna to manage the protected area.

The Congo forest basin under the TRIDOM Interzone of protection. Minkébé National Park is shown in the west
Since 1997, the park has received funds from DGIS (Netherlands Development Cooperation) and CARPE (USAID), and the WWF has worked with other groups to build up ways in which to manage and protect the biodiversity in the park. The park has received donors from the European Union, CARPE, UNESCO, and the French Global Environment Facility (FFEM).

The forest elephant is particularly important to the park and is believed by the WWF to contain one of the largest populations in Africa. The lesser forest in the park is inhabited by elephants, gorillas, and various small carnivores, porcupines, squirrels, African golden cats, leopards, giant pangolins, duikers, and red river hog. The primary forest is inhabited by creatures such as mandrill, black colobus, and chimpanzees.

Species of birds, including the spot-breasted ibis and Rachel's malimbe, are fairly common in the park, and the tree species Sterculia subviolacea is found in the national park and not found elsewhere in Gabon.

Although the park itself is not permanently inhabited by humans, populations of Baka pygmy, Fang, Kota, and Kwèl ethnic groups live in the forest region and possess a rich cultural and superstitious heritage, The Kota mask, the forest spirit, Baka Edzengui, and the Kwel Deke dance are of cultural note in the region.

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