Central African Republic

Environment:

CAR, the Central African Republic (République centrafricaine or simply Centrafrique in French), is north of DRC, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and almost in the precise center of Africa. The terrain is vast, flat to rolling, monotonous plateau, with scattered hills in northeast and southwest. The highest point is Mont Ngaoui at 1,410 meters (4,626 feet).

Environmental issues include bad tap water, poaching, desertification, and deforestation. Rampant poaching is spoiling the country’s image as one of the last great wildlife refuges. Elephant poaching in the Central African Republic has reached horrendous proportions, largely a result of recent political instability. Mining in CAR primarily involves diamonds and gold. CAR is a participant in the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, for the conservation and responsible management of the Congo Basin’s tropical forests. The ministry of water, forestry, fishing and hunting – Ministère des Eaux, Forêts, Chasse et Pêche – is a registered member of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Chinko Project is an international NGO working to sustainably manage the Chinko/Mbari Drainage Basin.

Central African Republic has 2 international Biosphere Reserves, Basse-Lobaye and Bamingui-Bangoran (which includes Bamingui-Bangoran National Park and Vassako Bolo Strict Nature Reserve). Other national parks include Andre Felix National Park, Dzanga Ndoki National Park, Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park, and Mbaéré Bodingué National Park. Manovo-Gounda St. Floris National Park is not only inscribed as natural World Heritage, but also listed as World Heritage in Danger. Dzanga Ndoki National Park and Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve form part of an extensive transborder protected area, known as the Dzanga-Sangha Complex of Protected Areas, also inscribed as natural World Heritage (Sangha Trinational).

Wildlife reserves include Aouk Aoukale Faunal Reserve, Nana Barya Faunal Reserve, Ouandjia Vakaga Faunal Reserve, Yata Ngaya Faunal Reserve, and Zemongo Faunal Reserve. Wildlife of particular interest to visitors includes the western lowland gorilla and African forest elephant.

Culture:

Arab slave traders were known to use the Ubangi River basin as a source of slaves. Today, the Aka pygmy people inhabit the southwest border region of Central African Republic. Europeans arrived in the region of present-day CAR in the late 19th century. Toward the end of the 19th century, the French established an outpost on the right bank of the Ubangi River at Bangui, which became the French territory of Oubangui-Chari and later part of French Equatorial Africa. At the outset of WWII, all of French Equatorial Africa sided with the Free French; as a result, all residents were granted French citizenship and limited self-government following the war.

Central African Republic became fully independent in 1960. However, a long series of coups dominated the new country’s politics right up to the present conflict (2012–2013). In 2013, the Séléka rebel alliance overthrew the previous regime, and installed the rebel leader Michel Djotodia as head of state; as a result, the African Union has suspended Central African Republic membership. With such a long history of instability, human rights in the CAR are of grave concern; for instance, Human Rights Watch reported rampant abuses after the coup.

Much of the current elephant slaughter is being blamed on the insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army, lead by the infamous Joseph Kony. In 2013, the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, expressed deep concern over rising poaching in Dzanga-Sanga National Park, part of Sangha Trinational World Heritage. In 2006, 9 sites were submitted to the Tentative Lists of World Heritage, including Le Tata (palais fortifié) du Sultan Sénoussi, les grottes de Kaga-Kpoungouvou, la ville de Ndélé, Lengo Petroglyphs, and Les vestiges du train de Zinga.

The traditional tourist season in CAR is during the dry months, from November to April. Sangha Lodge is currently one of the few tourism services with an active online presence. The only international airport is Bangui M’Poko.

References:

  • Mystery Shrouds Rise and Aims of Rebel at Helm of Central African Republic by S Sayare, 2013
  • Habituation, ecotourism and research for conservation of western gorillas in Central African Republic–Bai Hokou by S Masi, 2009
  • Ecological and economic impacts of gorilla-based tourism in Dzanga-Sangha, Central African Republic by A Blom, 2001
  • The monetary impact of tourism on protected area management and the local economy in Dzanga-Sangha (Central African Republic) by A Blom, 2000
  • Tourism As A Contribution To A Sustainable Development Of The Dzanga-Sangha Region In The Central African Republic by G Merz, 2000
  • Nature tourism in the northern region of the Central African Republic by JF Plumier, 1992