The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in collaboration with the Government of the Republic of the Congo (RoC) and in partnership with the Congo Conservation Company (CCC) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), announce a four-year program with the intent to develop ecotourism in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in northern Congo-Brazzaville.

Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park is one of the most remote, biologically intact forest landscapes left on the planet. Covering 400,000 hectares of pristine tropical rainforest, it is a globally important stronghold for critically endangered species such as the western lowland gorilla and forest elephant.

WCS has been involved in the management of the park since its creation in 1993 and today the Park is managed under a public-private partnership between WCS and the RoC Government. The ecotourism potential of the Park has long been unparalleled, but until now the professional tourism management expertise needed to open up this area to low-impact, wildlife-based tourism was missing.

“We are today announcing a program that will transform how the world sees Congo and its wildlife,” said Richard Malonga, Country Director for WCS Congo. “Decades of research have demonstrated the unique, but vulnerable status of northern Congo’s biodiversity. By developing a responsibly managed tourism operation that will attract international and domestic tourists to the park, we are creating a secure future for the people and wildlife of one of the most important wild areas in Central Africa. This is much needed good news during the COVID-19 pandemic and will play a key role in helping the area recover from its impact.”

The partnership will create Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park’s first professionally managed tourism concession, construct two new eco-lodges in the Park’s periphery, develop new ecotourism products, train people from local communities in hospitality and management skills, and launch a concerted marketing campaign to promote the area – all to secure the long-term future of a unique Congo Basin landscape.

Revenue created by this program will be reinvested in surrounding communities, creating jobs and helping to protect the remarkable biodiversity of the Park. The program will deliver a boost to the RoC Government’s objective of developing a greener economy.

The professional tourism management expertise will be brought to the partnership by the Congo Conservation Company (CCC). They focus on areas that boast significant wildlife populations and potential for the development of successful ecotourism products, but where professional tourism management capacity has so far been limited. 

CCC is of the view is that ecotourism can play a central role in protecting Africa’s most threatened ecosystems while delivering real benefits to local people. CCC has been pioneering rainforest ecotourism in the Congo Basin for the last decade and they are delighted to bring their expertise to this partnership with WCS, where they will work together to put Nouabalé-Ndoki on the African tourism map.

The partners have come together under a new USAID initiative, the Environmental Partnerships Program, which seeks to create new public-private sector partnerships, accelerating Central Africa's transition to sustainable development while mitigating threats to the biodiversity of Central Africa’s forests. USAID support will provide critical resources to park operations – helping to protect the very biodiversity that tourists will visit Congo to experience.

Dr. Paul Sabatine, Mission Director of USAID/DRC, said: “I am very pleased that USAID is continuing to partner with the Government of the Republic of Congo to create new tourism opportunities and expand this activity in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. Congratulations to the Congo Conservation Company and Wildlife Conservation Society on their partnership to bring the benefits of tourism to this incredible park and communities living nearby. I was lucky enough to visit the park and am so happy that together we are creating another project that will contribute to the ROC's priorities of wildlife conservation, economic diversification, job creation, and improvement of wellbeing for the Congolese people. I look forward to following the activity's success in delivering results that can be scaled up here in RoC.” 

An official launch event in Brazzaville is planned for when risks from COVID-19 have reduced and the program partners can safely congregate – the hope is for the final quarter of the year.