Central African Republic: wildlife

The Dzanga-Sangha Reserve in the south of the Central African Republic  is the only place where it is possible to go gorilla tracking in central Africa. Not to forget the elephant bais – clearings in the jungle – where it is possible to view 30 – 100 elephants mudbathing and feeding.

Western Lowland Gorillas

The Dzanga Sangha Reserve constitutes part of the habitat of the western gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), which lives in the forests across Central Africa:

  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Republic of Congo (Brazzaville)
  • Gabon and
  • Equatorial Guinea (Nigeria)

Gorillas have an important reproductive function in the forest

The sub-species is still relatively unknown, related to the difficulties in observing these animals in the (dense) rainforest as they travel in search of food. Like elephants and chimpanzees, they serve an important reproductive function within the forest ecosystem, allowing the dispersal and germination of seed from the numerous fruit trees they consume.

Bai Hokou Research Station

Since 1988, next to the Bai Hokou clearing can be found a gorilla research station. In 1997, they started habituating gorillas to the presence of humans, a process demanding much time. The first group of gorillas required 4 years of work by the observation teams who followed these animals daily at ever decreasing distances. From 2001, this group could be visited by tourists.

Forest elephants

Forest elephants, Loxodonta cyclotis, differ in several ways from the savanna elephants. Smaller in stature, forest elephant females average 2 meters in height and males 2.4 meters. Savanna elephants are at least 50 centimeters taller than the forest species for the two sexes. Forest elephant ivory is harder and differs in color from savanna ivory. Forest ivory is known as hot or pink ivory.

Mudbathing rituals

Elephants of different colors are observed at Dzanga and this is a result of mudbathing in different color clays found in the forest and in the bai. Elephant skin is naturally gray but elephants mud bathe to protect themselves against parasites and perhaps because it feels good. Entire elephant families are seen mud bathing on the edges of the clearing in its yellow clay.

Elephant Breeding

There are two breeding seasons at Dzanga occurring during drier parts of the year:

  • December – March
  • July – August

Males in breeding condition are said to be in “musth”, or “rut”. Occuring in the biggest bulls, the physical features of musth are secretion from the temporal glands located on the sides of the head which appears as dark stains and a constant dribbling of urine which wets the rear legs. During musth bulls spend most of their time searching for estrous females, which they locate by odor and from listening. Receptive females vocalize to advertise their condition with an “estrous song” which is a powerful call which can travel several kilometers through the forest.

Other wildlife: forest buffalos, antelopes, birds, …

Forest buffalos

The forest buffalo is most frequently observed in forest clearings and rarely encountered in close forest. The forest buffalo, which is also known as the dwarf buffalo, is considerably smaller that the savanna species weighing up to 300 kilograms compared to the savannah species which can weigh 1000 kilograms.

Forest antelopes (Bongo)

Bongo (Tragelaphus euryceros) , the largest species of forest antelope in Africa, belongs to the subfamily of antelope, the Tragelaphidae which also includes the Grand Kudu, Sitatunga, and Bushbuck, all of which possess spiral horns and striped pelages. Bongo are found only at a few sites in Africa including southern Cameroon and south western and eastern Central African Republic, the Aberdares in Kenya, and southwestern Sudan.

Birds

The Dzanga Sangha Reserve also offers much interest for amateur ornithologists. Indeed, one can come across the endemic Dzanga robin (Stphronis sanghensis), the Hartlaub duck (very rare), as well as many raptors and water birds. To observe them one can use the platforms or take a trip in a boat on the Sangha River or its tributary, the Mossapoula. 379 species of birds have been listed inside the reserve.

Elephants in mud

small forest buffalo

Sitatunga

Nature

The Dzanga-Sangha Reserve is part of a larger protected area, that crosses the border to Congo and Cameroon. It is the second largest rainforest area on earth. The Dzanga-Sangha Reserve is part of the Sangha River Tri-National Protected Area (STN).

Wildlife

The Dzanga-Sangha Reserve in the south of the Central African Republic  is the only place where it is possible to go gorilla tracking in central Africa. Not to forget the elephant bais – clearings in the jungle – where it is possible to view 30 – 100 elephants mudbathing and feeding.

Climate

The Dzanga-Sangha Reserve has a tropical climate, with lots of rainfall throughout the year. However, it does not limit tourist activities, as there are sufficient periods without rain.The best travel period is between December and March.

People

Due to its status as a special reserve, Dzanga-Sangha presents an experience rarely offered by protected areas in Africa: the discovery of the traditional way of life of human forest populations.