Salonga National Park World Heritage Site
Parc national de la Salonga, Congo, The Democratic Republic Of The
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Salonga National Park is a national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo located in the Congo River basin. It is Africa's largest tropical rainforest reserve covering about 36,000 km² or 3,334,600 hectares (8,240,000 acres). It extends into the provinces of Bandundu, Equateur, Kasaï Occidental and Kasaï Oriental.
The Salonga National Park was established as the Tshuapa National Park in 1956, and gained its present boundaries with a 1970 presidential decree by President Mobutu Sese Seko. It was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Due to the civil war in the eastern half of the country, it was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999.
The park structure is based on the American National Park model in which wilderness areas are cleared of their indigenous inhabitants. The World Wildlife Fund has been pressing to do the same with the Iyaelima, the last remaining residents of the park. The Iyaelima are hostile to the park, to the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature personnel who manage it and to the park guards. They do not understand park laws, for example prohibiting trade in wild animals.
The park is in an area of pristine rainforest about half way between Kinshasa, the capital, and Kisangani. There are no roads and most of the park is accessible only by river. The southern region inhabited by the Iyaelima people is accessible via the Lokoro River, which flows through the center and northern parts of the park, and the Lula River in the south.
Animals in the park include bonobos, Dryas monkeys, Thollon's red colobus, Congo Peacock, leopards, forest elephants, and African slender-snouted crocodiles. Other animals present include the long-tailed pangolin, giant pangolin, tree pangolin, Angolan slender mongoose, aquatic genet, hippopotamus, the African golden cat, bushpig, bongo, yellow-backed duiker, sitatunga, okapi, bushbuck, water chevrotain and pygmy Cape buffalo. There are many birds present and some of the larger ones are the cattle egret, black stork and yellow-billed stork. Some of its species are endemic to the country, and many are of high conservation concern. The southern region has been the location for studies of bonobos in the wild. There are much higher populations of bonobos near the Iyaelima settlements than elsewhere in the park, apparently because the Iyaelima do not harm them and are playing a strong role in their conservation.
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