Sustainable Protected Areas

Priority landscapes in the Congo Basin
© GHoA maps
Protected areas are one of the most effective tools for conserving species and natural habitats. They are essential for preserving tropical forests’ ecosystems, while also contributing to the livelihoods and wellbeing of local communities and society at large.
For example, well-planned and well-managed protected areas can help safeguard freshwater and food supplies thus reducing poverty, as well as minimise the impact of climate change. 
Protected areas are crucial for the well-being of forest communities. Pristine lands help conserve traditional customs (which take place in the heart of the forests), while meeting the vital needs of the communities. 
Animal conservation heavily depends on well-managed protected areas. Congo Basin endangered animal species, such as forest elephants, gorillas and bonobos, find here a safe haven to live and reproduce. 
WWF’s vision is to help build a network of ecologically representative, effectively managed, and financially viable protected areas that sustain biodiversity and natural resources across entire ecosystems, that help reduce poverty, provide environmental services, protect threatened human cultures and communities, and allow for harmonious coexistence of wildlife and people.

What we do

  • Promote a sustainable network of protected areas in the Congo Basin: WWF works with governments to identify areas of high value in terms of biodiversity and livelihoods. Once a protected area is identified, we provide support to the authorities to establish a management plan, and we monitor protected area management efficiency.
  • Technical and financial support: WWF provides assistance to governments to help enhance protected areas management. We provide trainings and support to park management staff and eco-guards. 
  • Bio monitoring: WWF conducts regular wildlife inventories to update population data of flagship species for conservation impact assessment, protection of high conservation value (HCV) areas, and more effective anti-poaching strategies
  • Support to local communities: WWF supports local communities living around protected areas through sustainable development interventions (building of wells, support to community agriculture and forestry). We also promote the involvement of local communities in protected areas management, and help guarantee access for local communities to protected areas for traditional activities (dead wood collection, sustainable fishing and hunting, traditional medicine).
  • Ecotourism: Wherever possible, WWF assists in developing eco-tourism activities, which help ensure sustainable funding for protected areas and create jobs for local communities.
  • Monitoring extractive industries: Unsustainable logging, mining and oil drilling are a direct threat for protected areas. WWF helps promote international standards such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to minimise the ecological impact of extractive industries.
Herd of African forest elephants eating mineral-rich mud in the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve, ... / ©: WWF / Meg GAWLER

17 Priority Protected Areas


Mount Cameroon NP - 58 000 ha
Campo Ma'an NP - 264 000 ha
Korup NP - 125 000 ha
Bakossi NP - 30 000 ha
Lobeke NP - 217 000 ha
Nki NP - 309 000 ha
Boumba Bek NP - 238 000 ha


Loango NP - 148 978 ha
Moukalaba Doudou NP - 449 179 ha
Mwagne NP - 115 535 ha
Minkebe NP - 757 258 ha

Democratic Republic of Congo

Lac Tumba Lediima - 260 000 ha
Salonga NP - 3 600 000 ha
Virunga NP - 784 368 ha
Itombwe NR - 200 000 ha

Republic of Congo

Odzala NP - 1 360 000 (ha)

Central African Republic

Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve - 686 500 ha


1. Poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking, which destroy biodiversity in the protected areas and undermine economic development and security for local populations;  

2. Illegal occupation of protected areas, due to booming demography around some of the protected areas;

3. Unsustainable extraction of natural resources, which leads to biodiversity loss and directly threatens the rights of local populations;

4. Climate change, which might lead to human migration from arid areas to the forests;  

5. Land use overlapping: logging or mining permits are sometimes attributed inside protected areas;

6. Infrastructures: roads and railroads, as well as human settlements along them, create pressure on protected areas; 

7. Lack of connection between protected areas, which leads to the risk of destroying migration corridors for mammals;     

8. Diseases, such as Ebola, which threaten biodiversity inside protected areas.


To ensure both optimal protection for biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods for local communities, the Congo Basin forests need to be protected by a network of ecologically representative and financially viable protected areas, connected by conservation corridors of responsibly managed forests. This is known as the Landscape Approach. WWF works with regional bodies such as the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) and Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC) and relevant national authorities to support the following key landscapes:
  • Southwest Cameroon and Campo Ma’an (Cameroon)
  • TRIDOM (Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Gabon)
  • Lower -Oogué and Gamba-Conkouati (Gabon)
  • Sangha Tri-national (TNS) (Cameroon, Republic of Congo and Central African Republic)
  • Lac Télé-Lac Tumba (Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • Salonga-Lukenie-Sankuru, Maiko-Tayna-Kahuzi Biega-Itombwe, and Virunga (Democratic Republic of Congo).  
Glaciers on the slopes of Mount Stanley / ©: WWF
Mount Stanley, Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda / DRC
Tropical Rainforest. Moist forest, Western Congo Basin, Gabon. / ©: Martin Harvey / WWF
Tropical Rainforest. Moist forest, Western Congo Basin, Gabon.
© Martin Harvey / WWF
 / ©: WWF / Meg GAWLER
Lake Oku, a sacred crater lake in the Kilum Mountain Forest Mount Kilum, Cameroon.