African Parks press release

Rare Mandrill Captured On Camera In Odzala-Kokoua National Park In Congo For The First Time

Congo Conservation Company together with conservation non-profit African Parks are pleased to announce the first visual recording of a mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) by camera trap in the south-western section of Odzala-Kokoua National Park, which African Parks manages in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Congo.  

Mandrills are omnivorous mammals and the largest of all monkeys. They tend to be shy and reclusive and live in the rainforest and gallery forest of equatorial Africa. Male mandrills are easily identifiable by their brightly coloured rumps and blue, red and yellow face markings that become brighter during mating season. Mandrills live in troops and often gather in multi-male and multi-female groups that can include anywhere between 200 to 600 animals. 

They are currently listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable and are under increasing threat from the spread of agriculture and human settlement, the expansion of mining and quarrying territories, and the bushmeat trade.

Mandrills are found further west in Gabon and while there have been claims to sightings before, particularly in the north east section of Odzala-Kokoua National Park, this is the first time there has ever been a recorded visual. It was captured June 3rd on a camera trap positioned on a walking trail enjoyed by guests staying at Mboko Camp in the park.

Odzala-Kokoua is located in the Congo Basin, the second largest rainforest in the world, and harbours one of the largest remaining populations of western lowland gorillas, offering unique sightings of habituated families. In recent times there have been more regular sightings of chimpanzees, and there are many other primates, including colobus, de Brazza and putty-nosed monkeys.

“It is incredibly exciting to have mandrills captured on camera for the first time, which confirms their presence in Odzala, underscoring the immense richness of its diversity and the value of camera traps in helping to improve our understanding and conservation of these extraordinary species” said Jonas Eriksson, Park Manager of Odzala-Kokoua. “The Congo Government’s commitment to conserving this irreplaceable ecosystem will leave a sustainable legacy not only for the thousands of people who live and subsist in this area, but for the planet, ensuring the persistence of one of its most important natural landscapes”.  

African Parks has been responsible for the management of the park in partnership with the Congo Government’s Ministry of Forest Economy, Sustainable Development and Environment since 2010, and together with Congo Conservation Company, the commercial tourism partner, they have seen a remarkable increase in the number and diversity of wildlife sightings. 

The camera traps, donated by Barbara Kingsolver author of Poisonwood Bible, were set up by the Congo Conservation Company guides in early March and have yielded exciting images and video clips during lockdown, including giant ground pangolin, chimpanzees, leopards, servaline genet and the more regular sightings of western lowland gorillas, forest elephant, forest buffalo and bongos.

Notes

• Odzala-Kokoua National Park in the Congo is one of Africa’s oldest national parks; designated in 1935 it received Biosphere Reserve status in 1977. Covering an expansive 13,500 km2 area, Odzala lies in the heart of the Congo Basin, the second largest rainforest in the world after the Amazon. The Congo Basin spans more than two million square kilometres across six countries and accounts for 18% of the world’s remaining rainforest. Humans have occupied the area for over 50,000 years, yet it is still one of the most biologically diverse and species rich areas on the planet, and the basin delivers clean water, food and shelter to more than 75 million people.

• In 2010, African Parks entered into a 25-year-long agreement with the Republic of the Congo’s Ministry of Forest Economy and Sustainable Development and Environment (MEFDD) to protect this globally significant park. Odzala’s expansive landscape, remoteness and dense habitat are all factors that contribute towards the challenges of managing this landscape. Around 12,000 people live in the periphery of the park, and survive off the natural resources the area provides. While bushmeat poaching remains a key threat to wildlife, the park is working to improve security and to ensure that local communities benefit long-term from its existence. Together with Government, funding and commercial partners it is developing income generating activities, improving livelihoods, and reducing dependence on unsustainable activities to ensure Odzala remains a healthy ecosystem capable of supporting generations of people while conserving its rich biodiversity. For more information visit: www.africanparks.org.   

• Operating in remote parts of Central and West Africa, Congo Conservation Company (CCC) is creating viable, low impact tourism ventures in a pristine natural region to protect it from other, potentially damaging, commercial enterprises. To achieve this goal, CCC is initiating unprecedented journeys for the conscious traveller between camps and lodges within the Congo Basin. For more information visit: http://www.odzala.com.

Contact:

• Classic Portfolio: Katie Jacholke at media@classic-portfolio.com

• African Parks: Fran Read at franr@africanparks.org