CRYSTAL MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK.
The crystal mountains National park in Gabon is found in the renowned rocky crystal mountain ranges that stretch form Equatorial Guinea to the valleys on River Ogooue. The mountain slopes are breathtaking scenery as the name resounds…a variety of trees, orchids, lichens, gallery forests and begonias. The high altitude forest reserve is shielded by mist and clouds
It is situated in the Mont’s de Crystal on the western edge of the Woleu-Ntem Plateau, between Equatorial Guinea and the Ogooué River. The twin parks, Mbe National Park and Mt Sene National Park, were established on 4 September 2002, based on their exceptionally high plant biodiversity and forming part of a former Pleistocene rain forest refugium.
Some of the animals in the park include black colobus monkey, forest buffalo, Mandrill, chimpanzees, forest elephants, leopard and western lowland gorillas among others. There are an estimated 48 species of reptiles in the park.
Getting there: the park is a mere 2 or 3 hours drive from Libreville
There is a hydro-electricity dam at Tichimbele is located on the reservoirs of Kinguele and Tchimbele on Mbe river. The station at the dam provides some houses for tourists in the park and facilities for schools and institutions doing research on the different species of plants in the botanical garden
The crystal mountain habour remarkable plant diversity. Their location on the Equator, some 75kilometers inland from the Atlantic Ocean coast, combined with the presence of an elevated plateau with steep hills 300-900 meters above the sea level has resulted in a stable moist climate throughout geological times, and the area has been identified as having been an important Pleistocene refugee during the ice ages. Ongoing botanical work points to the highest point Floral diversity at the African Continent, thus distinguishing the crystal mountains as a global biodiversity hotspot
The Human Aspect
Human density is low (less than 1 person per km2) and concentrated along a poorly maintained road dividing the park in two 600km2 forest blocks separated by a 25 km wide zone. No people live inside the park. Monitoring of the local population’s health status as well as human resource use mapping and socio-economic surveys are necessary to quantify if/how local livelihoods influence the biodiversity of the National Park. A continuous presence of WCS staff in villages provides a two-way communication channel, and helps to reduce negative impacts. Mostly local or regional people are hired for park management activities. Weekend tourism from the nearby capital may add to local revenues.
Many economic stakeholders (logging, water, hydro-electricity, and mineral mining companies, as well as bush meat and ivory traders) are found in the region. A network of old forestry roads, the absence of law enforcement and proximity to major market towns makes commercial hunting the most immediate threat to wildlife in the park.
Collection of human, animal, and plant data by Boston College, WCS, and the Missouri Botanical Garden started in 2004, providing sound baseline information before the park was effectively managed on the ground. Conservation outreach and environmental education programs have begun operating in villages adjacent to the park.
WCS has started the dialogue with local logging companies, physically demarcating the park’s boundaries and verifying and publicizing intrusions, we have halted logging activities inside the park.
Negotiations are underway between the national parks administration and the hydro-electric company (which provides power to the capital) that is based on the edge of the park, in order to establish a management headquarters in buildings owned by the company.
WCS has assisted the Gabonese authorities, with help from WWF, to conduct anti-poaching missions in and around the park in an effort to stem the illegal bush meat trade.