What has changed since the Lékédi Biodiversity Foundation took over management of the park in June 2021?
Eric Willaume: A lot has changed! Major restoration work on the trails has been undertaken in order to increase safety throughout the 14,000 hectares of land that comprise the park. Regular patrols in collaboration with the Bakoumba Water and Forestry Department have reduced the impact of poaching on the park's biodiversity. These efforts will be continued and expanded in 2022. In addition, in 2021, the park will be equipped with a quarantine building that will enable it to be better prepared to receive orphans. A new biochemical analysis laboratory has also been opened for the park’s research teams and veterinary service. The installation of additional laboratory equipment will continue in 2022.
Executive Director of the Lékédi biodiversity foundation
Have any new animals been introduced?
E.W.: Despite the difficulties caused by Covid, a number of animals were reintroduced in 2021: three mustached guenons and six white-bellied pangolins. The accredited Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance (PASA — https://www.pasaprimates.org) also welcomed seven additional chimpanzees after they had been quarantined at CIRMF (Centre International de Recherche Médicale de Franceville).
We are currently caring for more than thirty chimpanzees, three gorillas and a dozen mustached guenons at our rehabilitation center. The wildlife surveys that are still ongoing have brought to light even more of the park's rich biodiversity. In addition to iconic species such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and panthers, other more discreet species such as giant pangolins, spotted otters, water chevrotains, and African slender-snouted crocodile have been filmed by our camera traps. Surveys and research projects involving local and international scientists are set to take place in 2022.
Have you deployed any new measures to combat human-wildlife conflicts?
E.W.: In order to respond to these problems, particularly between mandrills habituated to humans and the villages bordering the park, an innovative sentry project was launched in 2021 to protect the fields from wildlife attacks. This project consists of paying young people from the affected villages to guard the fields and keep wild animals away using non-lethal means. The empowerment of these young people has resulted in one of the two villages completely halting the damage to their fields. This initial success and the newfound sense of trust within the village have made it possible to develop a program to protect crops from damage by animals.
Lékédi Park mandrills on Netflix
The foundation was delighted to welcome a film crew which filmed groups of mandrills over a period of several weeks. The film will be released in 2022 on Netflix.
TOURS BACK UP AND RUNNING
Starting in August 2021, the park has been open to the public again thanks to tours designed to raise awareness about Gabon's biodiversity. They are well worth checking out! Information on the website.
In partnership with Eramet and Comilog
The Lékédi Biodiversity Foundation was established jointly by Comilog and Eramet, with four main objectives in mind: to ensure the sustainability of Lékédi Park's activities; to provide additional resources for preserving Gabon's biodiversity and combating poaching; to rehabilitate orphaned primates; and to promote scientific research.