The status of Forest Elephant and Great Apes in Central Africa priority
WWF Biomonitoring Report
Dr N’Goran Kouame Paul  (WWF Central Africa) Congo Basin Biomonitoring
Coordinator (with the contribution of: Dr Nzooh Dongmo Zacharie Laurent
(WWF Cameroon) Biomonitoring and Wildlife Management Coordinator Le-Duc
Yeno Stephane (WWF Gabon) Information Management Programme Coordinator
October 2017

Elephants and great apes are among WWF priority species in the Congo Basin.
WWF?s work in Central Africa focuses on 12 landscapes and 21 priority sites
which are essentially protected areas. WWF is present in five countries,
namely Cameroon, Gabon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of
Congo and the Republic of Congo. It works closely with governments,
conservation NGOs and other private partners to implement conservation
in priority protected areas and their surrounding zones. In a bid to
provide up-to-date information to assist managers in decision-making and
ultimately to assess the impact of conservation activities, WWF revitalized
its biomonitoring program in March 2014.

Within the framework of the biomonitoring program, WWF carried out wildlife
inventories covering an area of 5,850,000 hectares between 2014 and 2016.
These inventories, organized in seven phases, involved four countries,
namely Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic (CAR)
and Gabon. It was conducted in three conservation landscapes: Campo Ma?an,
Sangha Tri-National (TNS) and Trinational Dja-Odzala-Minkebe (TRIDOM). About
one quarter of the total area of the landscapes was covered. Cameroon
represented 58% of the total area covered, while CAR, Congo and Gabon
respectively 11%, 22% and 9% of the area surveyed. Forest concessions,
community hunting zones and other land use types covered 80% of the area
surveyed while protected areas covered 20% .

This is the first time wildlife census has been carried out on such a large
scale and over a short period of time in Central Africa. The main objective
of the inventories was to establish the status of large and medium-sized
mammals, as well as anthropogenic pressures in national parks and their
peripheral zones, with particular focus on forest elephant (Loxodonta
cyclotis) and great apes: the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the Western
Gorilla (gorilla gorilla). These inventories also contribute to enrich the
international databases for elephants and great apes. The recent
publication by IUCN on the status of African elephants included results of
20 sites surveyed by WWF in 2014 and 2015.

However, it is important to note that conservation efforts have resulted in
a significant reduction of human pressure in priority sites as compared to
the peripheral zone (other forests), with hunting activities reduced by
half in priority sites (national parks). This has resulted in relatively
higher elephant density in national parks compared to the surrounding
multiple use zones. However, the situation remains preoccupying as funds
allocated to conservation remain well below the minimum required for most
sites. Conservation efforts must extend to peripheral zones because of the
migration of certain animal populations, especially elephants.

The line transect technique was used in the inventories, which is widely
applied and internationally recognized for wildlife inventories throughout
the world. The data collection phase covered a total of 2,875 km and
involved local communities as well as protected areas managers and
biomonitoring specialists under the supervision of WWF. In addition to the
euro 575,000 cost, the data collection mobilized 33,560 man-days. The staff
were also trained on wildlife survey and data processing techniques.

Gorillas and chimpanzees respectively represent 75% and 25% of great apes
in the sampled area. The results show that the area covered contains a
population estimated at 59,000 weaned great apes (with minimal and maximal
estimates of 50,500 and 72,500 weaned individuals respectively). This
corresponds to an average density of 1 individual/ km2 in the sampled area.
The lowest density is found in the Campo Ma?an landscape (0.54 individual /
km2) while average densities in TRIDOM and TNS landscapes are twice higher.
The elephant population ranges between 7,000 and 13,500 individuals, with a
mean estimate of 9,500 individuals. The average density is 0.16 individual
/km2; the highest density being in the TNS landscape (0.31 individual /
km2) and the lowest in the TRIDOM landscape (0.10 individual / km2).

Trends analysis of population sizes in priority sites show a general
stability of great ape populations, whereas those of elephants have
declined remained relatively stable in Campo Ma?an National Park (between
2008 and 2014) and in the Dzanga Sangha Protected Areas (between 2012 and
2016) with not more than 11% variation in the mean in Lob?k? National Park
(51% between 2002 and 2015), Nki National Park (78% between 2005 and 2015)
and Boumba-Bek National Park (90% between 2011 and 2015). These large
declines are due to the massive killing of elephants for ivory, whose trade
has grown disproportionately throughout the world in the last decade.

Protected areas managers now have up-to-date detailed results for urgent
conservation actions to be taken. At the level of Cameroon for example, the
results were officially presented to the government and other stakeholders
on November 25, 2016, in order to alert the authorities on the gravity of
the situation. This report is, therefore, a special call at national and
international levels for the mobilization of all stakeholders and resources
to safeguard the megafauna of the Congo Basin through increased
conservation efforts. The impact of field activities must be evaluated
through an integrated biomonitoring program that is in line with
international best practices and up-to-date methodology.