Republic of the Congo

Environment:

Republic of the Congo (or Western Congo) is in Central Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Angola and Gabon. The terrain varies from coastal plain, southern basin, central plateau, to northern basin. The highest point is Mount Berongou at 903 meters (2963 feet). Some 70 percent of the population lives in Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, or along the railway in between.

Environmental issues include air pollution from vehicle emissions, water pollution from the dumping of raw sewage, bad tap water, and deforestation. Oil and gas dominate the country’s resource sector, and indeed economy. The ministry of forest economy and sustainable development is called Ministère de l’Economie Forestière et du Développement Durable. Republic of Congo minister of forest economy since 1997, Henri Djombo, was elected president of the International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme in 2008. Resource Extraction Monitoring maintains the independent observatory for forest law enforcement and governance, Observateur Indépendant FLEG – Congo. Republic of the Congo is a member of the international Congo Basin Forest Partnership, promoting conservation and responsible management of the Congo Basin‘s tropical forests.

Republic of Congo has 2 international Biopshere Reserves, Odzala (Odzala National Park) and Dimonika. Dimonika Biosphere Reserve is in the mountains of Mayombe. Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park forms part of the Sangha Trinational World Heritage. Other national parks include Conkouati-Douli National Park, Ntokou-Pikounda National Park, and Ougoue Lekiti National Park. Additionally, there are a number of wildlife reserves, including Léfini Faunal Reserve, Lesio Louna Reserve, Lossi Sanctuary, and Tchimpounga Sanctuary. The international NGO, Wildlife Conservation Society, helps manage Conkouati-Douli National Park and Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, as well as Lac Tele Community Reserve, a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. In 2012, more than 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of newly designated Ramsar sites were announced, bringing the total to 10 Wetlands of International Importance.

Primates in general and gorillas in particular, as well as elephants, are important for tourism in the Republic of Congo. A lot of work has been done to protect critically threatened western lowland gorillas. For instance, Ntokou-Pikounda National Park was created in 2012 at the behest of the Wildlife Conservation Society expressly for gorilla protection. The Aspinall Foundation has been instrumental in Projet Lésia-Louna, reintroducing kidnapped gorillas back into the wild. In 2012, it was revealed that some 5,000 elephants had been killed by poachers around Nouabale Ndoki National Park alone over the previous 5 years.

Culture:

Portuguese explorers first reached the mouth of the Congo River in the 15th century; however, direct European colonization did not begin until the late 19th century. The area north of the Congo River became known as French Congo, with Brazzaville as the capital. During WWII, Brazzaville became the seat of French Equatorial Africa. The Republic of the Congo became fully independent in 1960. During the Cold War, the country gradually became more left-leaning, and then increasingly authoritarian. Various degrees of conflict eventually resulted in the Republic of the Congo Civil War, from 1997 to 1999. The winner of the civil war, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, remains in control of the country as of 2013.

The U.S. State Department Overseas Security Advisory Council provides detailed, up to date crime and safety reports for Republic of the Congo. The U.S. Embassy Brazzaville also issues warden messages whenever necessary. Throughout the tropical Congo Basin various mosquito born diseases are of particular concern, such as chikungunya.

Although Republic of the Congo has no registered members of ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property), 2 cultural properties have been submitted to the Tentative Lists of World Heritage, the old slave wharf of Loango and royal domain of Mbé. Ministère du Tourisme et de l’Environnement maintains the official tourism website. Hotel-Restaurant Hippocampe, in the center of Brazzaville, is popular with overlanders. Odzala Wilderness Camps in Odzala-Kokoua National Park are operated by South Africa based Wilderness Safaris.

The Congo–Ocean Railroad, connecting the seaport of Pointe-Noire with Brazzaville, is operated by Chemin de fer Congo-Océan. Equatorial Congo Airlines is a relatively new airline flying out of Brazzaville’s Maya-Maya Airport, domestically to Pointe-Noire and Oyo, as well as internationally to Paris, France.

References:

  • Gorillas to Be Protected with New Congo National Park by A Thompson, 2013
  • Lowland Gorillas, Protected in a Green Abyss by R Nuwer, 2013
  • Canoeing the Congo: First Source to Sea Descent of the Congo River by P Harwood, 2012
  • WUSTL anthropologists’ work prompts Republic of Congo to enlarge national park by J Daues, 2012
  • The influx of Gorillas at the Ebobobo salt marsh: an asset for the promotion of tourism in the Republic of the Congo by C Ngokaka, H Boukoulou, F Akouango, 2010
  • Can nature tourism help finance protected areas in the Congo Basin? by DS Wilkie, J Carpenter, 1999