The possibility of viewing elusive wildlife draws visitors, which brings in revenue that has the potential to improve conservation efforts as well as quality of life for communities in and around the forests.
The CAR government wants to develop its tourism industry, with the DSPA complex as its flagship project. Tourism is also an important component of Dzanga-Sangha’s management strategy, and the growth of this sector will increasingly strengthen the vital link between conservation and the community.
DSPA ecotourism programme
Visitors have come to see DSPA’s exceptional forest wildlife since the 1990s.
The ecotourism programme runs environmentally and culturally focused tourism activities, developed in partnership with the indigenous Ba’Aka hunter-gatherers and Sangha-Sangha river people. This gives economic value to DSPA’s biodiversity and natural resources as well as traditional cultures and customs.
Tourists pay a fee to enter the park, which is redistributed in three ways:
- 50 % to park management
- 10% to a governmental fund to develop national forestry and tourism
- 40% to the community, with the goal of promoting rural development based on the sustainable use of natural resources.
Within the complex, there are currently two lodges (a third is near completion), an airstrip, a tourist welcome centre, and two observational platforms at clearings (including the world-famous Dzanga Bai). Two forest camps provide a base for gorilla tracking to two habituated gorilla groups and other activities.
From 2007 to 2011 the DSPA received 550-650 tourists per year. From 2009 to 2011 alone, 15 filmmakers visited alongside numerous international journalists.
The Sangha Tri-National landscape’s UNESCO World Heritage Site listing is expected to have a positive impact on tourism.
The vision of the Dzanga-Sangha ecotourism programme (DSPA)
- Demonstrating the added value tourism can bring
- Providing resident communities with sustainable livelihood options (such as jobs for local people)
- Increasing tourism revenue and international donor support.
Primate habituation programme
Tourists have been able to visit these habituated gorillas since 2001. The programme aims to become economically sustainable through tourism revenue.
These gorillas are also the subject of numerous scientific articles and international documentaries. These have greatly contributed to our knowledge of this elusive species and raised the area’s profile.
The Primate Habituation Programme aims to become a regional model for great ape-based tourism. It ensures minimal impacts on gorillas while generating revenue for conservation activities and direct, tangible benefits for local communities.
Visitor satisfaction rates are high. The primary reason for the programme’s success is the strong participation of indigenous Ba’Aka hunter-gatherers, whose unique skills and superior forest knowledge enable the gorillas to be followed.
Wildlife law enforcement (RALF)
In Central Africa, illegal hunting is the most immediate threat to the survival of species such as gorillas, chimpanzees and elephants. Efforts to support the implementation of the Wildlife Act are ineffective due to the lack of monitoring at the judicial level. As a result of this widespread impunity, hunters, traders, national and international traffickers have remained very active in and around protected areas.
In September 2009 WWF, with the support of the CAR government, put in place the programme for the reinforcement of the application of wildlife law (RALF). This aimed to:
- Combat poaching and the trafficking of protected species
- Support government efforts to put in place a National Coordination Unit to dismantle illegal trafficking networks.
The first two years saw significant success in arrests and follow-up in the justice system. Subsequently the programme has experienced difficulties due to corruption among government agents, which has affected results.
As a result of the breakdown in law and order, supplies of animal protein in Bangui (the capital and largest city in CAR) are running low. There are reports of lorry loads of smoked bushmeat arriving – another way in which the political crisis is negatively impacting wildlife.
Action is needed to ensure protected species are not affected. Once domestic meat becomes available, support will be needed to phase out the bushmeat trade.
In spite of this, the political will shown by the government and other partners is palpable. One major step forward is the development of a local information exchange group, which can be transformed into a national coordination unit against poaching and illegal trafficking.
WWF plans to support this development, which will require both capacity building and substantial financial resources.
Promotion of responsible forest management
Because not all forests can be protected as national parks or conservation reserves, we work with the forest sector to promote more responsible forest management practices. Responsible forest management will allow forest concessions to provide:
- Important habitat for wildlife
- Long-term sources of revenue for the country and local people
- Ecosystem services like carbon sequestration and water cycling.
Eight forest companies in CAR have a total of 11 forest concession permits. None of them is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified and none currently has third-party legal verification. There are also three unallocated concessions. All 14 are located in the southwestern forest block.
The forestry code calls for the establishment of platforms for participatory management but this has so far never been put into practice. Forest companies pay forestry taxes which are supposed to benefit local people based on local development plans but the transfer of funds from the state to decentralized level rarely takes place as it should.
Illegal logging is a major problem and leads to lost revenue that could have been invested in public services like health care and education. Civil society is weak and existing legislation in many cases needs revision and harmonization.
Much of WWF’s work with forest companies in CAR has been done under the Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN) umbrella, WWF’s tool for working with the private forest sector. GFTN uses market forces to drive improved forest management.
The geographic location of CAR means that wood has to be transported over large distances and exported via the port in Douala, Cameroon. This dramatically increases transportation costs and, since certification also adds to costs, GFTN-Central Africa predicts that there is little immediate prospect of FSC certification in CAR and probably not before other countries in the region. Therefore, efforts are primarily being focussed on legality.
This work is gaining traction from CAR being one of the three countries in the region to sign a voluntary partnership agreement (VPA) with the European Union. Under the VPA, the state takes on the task of guaranteeing the legal compliance of the wood exported. This reduces the pressure on buyers in the EU to do the due diligence that is required under European timber regulations (FLEGT).
The systems for this are yet to be developed. WWF-CAR supports the implementation of the FLEGT roadmap, particularly via support to civil society.
WWF has also supported forest companies in CAR with various other types of capacity building, all aiming at sustainable forest management.