Conservation Location of the Week – Eastern C.A.R.

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A view over the riverine bakos and savannahs of the remote Chinko River basin (sorry about the watermark…)

The sun rises over the vast savannahs of the eastern Central African Republic. The peaceful serenity of the slowly winding Chinko River through the endless grassland-forest mosaic is broken only by the occasional chatter of parrots. In the meadows beyond, groups of Waterbuck, Reedbuck, Buffon Kob, Buffalo, and Elephants peacefully graze while Leopards and Lions sleep lazily near the trees. To the south of the savannahs lie the forested plains. Here, the Red River Hog noisily rummages through the trees while the are Pousargues’s Mongoose cryptically slinks through the shrubby covet. This land is ruled by the majestic Giant Eland, Africa largest and possibly the most majestic of all the world’s antelopes. In the riverside swamps, monstrous Giant Forest Hogs splash while the dainty Sitatunga slowly walks, hoofs splayed on the muddy marsh plants. In the early morning and late evening, the beautiful Bongo moves in and out of the saline bais of the Mbari River in large herds, the previously empty clearing becoming a mass of golden striped fur, twirling ears, twisting tails, and spiraling horns. This is the vast, remote Chinko-Mbomou region of the Central African Republic and it’s one of the last great wildlife wildernesses on Earth.

Status: not protected properly, but contains one of the richest rare mammal species assemblages in Africa. Three massive protected areas, Manovo Gounda St Floris NP, Bamingui-Bangoran NP, and Zemongo Faunal Reserve were established – at least on paper (…oh my god…), but none are protected or instituted properly and poaching and banditry is rife and endemic in all three. Fortunately though, private hunting companies have established conservancies with much better funding and protection and wildlife flourishes in these areas with very little armed conflict and other problems associated with the nation’s general abject poverty. One concession group (40, 41, and 48), owned by a company known as Central African Wildlife Adventures (CAWA), located in the SE of the Mbomou region of the nation, is key in location for effective protection. Located at the crossroads of the Equatorial Rainforest and Sudano-Guinean Savannahs, this area is one of the most diverse, well protected, and pristine in the whole country.

Key species for conservation include:

Giant (Lord Derby’s) Eland (Tragelaphus derbianus) – Africa’s largest antelope and arguably the continent’s best

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Image from: (http://www.gssafaris.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Lord-Derby-Eland-300×208.jpg)

Bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus) – also in the running for Africa’s best antelope; wonderful species seen in large herds

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Image from: (http://www.cokesmithphototravel.com/image/56334603.jpg)

Giant Forest Hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) – certainly one of Africa’s more grotesque animals; while relatively common, bushmeat poaching in unprotected areas has been observed to take quite a toll on the species’ health

giant-forest-hog-by-adam-riley

Image from: (http://lh4.ggpht.com/d7GI1eK-lRO8Rbi3wsNI9o9eo51L4NCZx5dgTCFvmLDvIxerx-SCSv2lS9fThslm6Hj6yqeBR2ya9v9P4tc9=s580)

Red River Hog (Potomacherus porcus) – in the running for the world’s best looking pig and very cool

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Image from: (http://www.rockjumperbirding.com/wp-content/gallery/slideshow-gabon/hog-red-river-1-tassi-ar.jpg)

African Golden Cat (Profelis aurata) – probably the world’s least known felid and one of the most elusive and enigmatic; even more interestingly, it occurs here with a closely related species – Caracal – that it almost never occurs in the wild with; a camera-trapping project rec’d both these species here, representing an over 400 km range extension (!)

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Image from: (http://photos.mongabay.com/j/03_AfricanGoldenCat_PreciousWoods-%282%29.568.jpg)

Other unique, rare, and little known mammals also occur here including the Long Nosed Mongoose, Black Footed Mongoose, Water Chevrotain, Agile Mangabey, De Brazza’s Guenon, Patas Monkey, Weyn’s Duiker, White Bellied Duiker, Aardvark, and Giant Pangolin… WOW!

Most importantatly… Pousargues’s Mongoose (Dologale dybowskii) – not recorded for over 20 years in its habitat – the plains and savannahs of NW Uganda, CAR, DRC, and South Sudan; it was confirmed here by the Chinko Project camera trapping survey and photographed for the first time; as of now, this is the only are where we have confirmed records for this species and is currently a top conservation priority for preventing the animal from traveling to extinction

For Info on this project check out: http://chinkoproject.com/, http://chinko.posterous.com/, and http://al-safari.blogspot.com/ (this last one is a hunting blog though, so be prepared for the dead animal pictures – there is a ton of info on the region though)

(picture from: http://www.africahunting.com/hunting-pictures-videos/watermark.php?file=17455&size=1)

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