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Mount Nimba Strict Reserve (extension)

Date of Submission: 30/03/2017
Criteria: (ix)(x)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism
State, Province or Region:
Nimba County, Yarmen and Gbalay-geh District
Ref.: 6246
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Description

East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR) is located at North- eastern Central Liberia with a total area of 13, 500 hectares or 337,500 acres. The Reserve is characterized by a composition of natural ecosystems evolving from several ecological and geo- physical processes that have resulted in the creation of many habitat types such as montane gallery forest, secondary thickets, or woody grass land, secondary hill forests, moist evergreen forest, swamp or wetter secondary forests covering Guinea and Cote D’voire. As a result of the diverse vegetative uniqueness of the site, accommodation is provided for many species of conservation relevance that are  endemic to the Liberian side of  the mountain which are either threatened or  endangered under IUCN status such as the Nimba toad ( Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis liberiensis), Nimba otter shrew ( Micropotamogale lamottei) ( Endangered), Nimba flycatcher (Malaenornis annaamarulae) (Vulnerable) African Swallow-tail butterfly (Papilio antimachus) and the endangered Chimpanzees (Pantroglodytes verus) which are famous for their distinctive tool use repertoire. Also adding credit to the site is its biodiversity potential, form, and array of endemic and threatened fauna. The site is currently considered to be the richest forest domain of the country; particularly, in terms of rarity and endemic species composition. The other side of Mount Nimba in Guinea and Ivory Coast is already designated as a World Heritage Site.

The Liberian side has also been recorded as a very important site for Papilio antimachus – the Giant African Swallowtail butterfly. Around 611 butterfly species have been listed for Nimba Mountains and surrounding forests, whereof 479 species occur in the core area (ENNR). From a global conservation perspective, the Nimba Range is among the most important areas in Africa, with numerous endemic species, many of them globally threatened. The importance of this area is recognized by its inclusion in national and international conservation priority schemes such as: Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), and considered the most important Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) site in Africa. The described area also constitutes an Endemic Bird Area (EBA), and is recognized as an Important Bird Area with more than 651 non timber forest products (NTFPs), of which 65% is considered as useful and 257 are used for medicinal purposes. The majority of reptiles are forest species with about 10% of species occurring at higher elevations. There 83 reptile species recorded for Mt. Nimba Liberia. Several species of butterflies are new to science or endemic to the Liberian side of the Nimba Mountains as recorded during some field surveys at the protected area. At Coldwater, an area in the Southwest ENNR, many lowland forest specialists were found exclusively in this area including 2 un-described species.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Mount Nimba demonstrates a shared component of geo- physical and biological processes culminating to the formation of unique diversity of landscape and species of distinct value between Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast of which East Nimba nature reserve ( ENNR) is an integral part of the range. A veritable « water tower » with about fifty springs between the Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, which extends into Liberia (the Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve), is dominated by a chain of mountains that culminate at 1,752 m altitude at Mount Nimba. The slopes, covered with dense forest at the lower levels, with grassy mountain pastures, overflow with particularly rich endemic flora and fauna. The ENNR extending over a total of area of 13, 500 hectares or 337,500 acres is an integral component of the 12,540 ha in Guinea and 5,000 ha in Côte d’Ivoire.

The ENNR contains original and diverse species of the most remarkable animal and plant populations, not only in West Africa, but also in the entire African continent; notably threatened species such as the Micropotamogale of Mount Nimba (Micropotamogale lamottei), the viviparous toad of Mount Nimba (Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis) and chimpanzees (Pantroglodytes verus) that use stones as tools.

The reserve contains an array of rare and  exceptional   animal and  plant  populations of conservation relevance not only in West Africa but the continent as a whole; among which are the Nimba Otter Shrew ( Micropotamogale lamottei).The Liberian species of  the viviparous Nimba Toad (Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis liberiensis) only found in Liberia side of Mount Nimba and the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes versus)(Endangered) that exhibit the ability to use tool and nest building behavior;  As well as the Beuttikofer’s Shrew ( Crocidura beuttikoferi) and the Nimba Flycatcher (Malaenornis annamarulae).

Criterion (ix): Part of the rare mountainous chains of West Africa, Mount Nimba rises abruptly to an altitude of 1,752 m above a rolling panorama and giving way to forested plains at the lower altitudes. It represents a natural phenomenon of ecological and biological processes which have evolved to form distinct geo – physical and geo-morphological characteristics unique to the Guinea Gulf from an  ecological perspective. It is an isolated refuge covered with montane forests, making the landscape of the Gulf of Guinea an exceptional site from the ecological perspective. The reserve  comprises  of  grassy plains at its peak followed by, montane forest (980 – 1320 meters) secondary  forest  slopes (800 -1000 meters), moist evergreen forest ( 415 – 785 meters), Upland wet savannah (830 -1270), palm rich secondary forest (500 – 1170 meters), lowland savannah ( 415 – 785 meters), raphia swamp (415 – 785meters) and several water bodies. The diverse ecosystems of the area give rise to an exceptional and unique landscape that provides shelter to an array of fauna species with strong endemism. Its geomorphological characteristics and its sub-equatorial montane climate of strong seasonal and altitudinal contrasts produce a rich variety of microclimates. This latter factor has contributed to the individualization of an insolite plant and fauna population, as well as a dynamic and exceptionally varied ecosystem.

Criterion (x): Its unique geographical and climatic location combined with its bio geographical background provides the Nimba chain with one of the most remarkable diversities of the whole West African region. It is also one of the only sites of the Gulf of Guinea with a strong endemism potential. The wide range of habitats in the Reserve with its numerous niches enables the property to provide shelter to more than 317 vertebrate species, 107 of which are mammals, and, to more than 2,500 invertebrate species with a strong endemism level.

The viviparous toad of Mount Nimba (Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis), critically threatened with extinction due to its very reduced breeding area, only lives in high altitude habitats. Another endemic species in danger of extinction is the micropotamogale of Mount Nimba (Micropotamogale lamottei), a small semi-aquatic insectivore. Several species of threatened primates are also present, including chimpanzees capable of using tools. Several species of threatened primates are also present, including chimpanzees ( Pantroglodytes verus ) capable of using tools.

The Reserve contains a very important plant population, with a dense forest covering the lower level of the massif up to 1,000 m altitude, replaced higher up by a montane forest rich in epiphytes. The massif of Nimba has summits that extend over 15 km in length and covered with montane savanna. More than 2,000 species of vascular plants, including several endemic or quasi-endemic plants have been recorded.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity

The property includes almost the totality of the massif of Nimba located in Guinea and the  Côte d’Ivoire. Today, the Reserve covers an area of about 17,540 ha of which 12,540 ha in Guinea and 5,000 ha in Côte d’Ivoire. The part of the massif located on the territory of Liberia is greatly degraded due to former mining activities. Mining activities by the former mining company in the area left a pool of water which is now referred to as Blue Lake. Sub-montane forest overlapping the evergreen forests is a unique ecosystem within the Upper Guinea Forest of West Africa. Mining threats remain a major issue and may have reduced the number and diversity of species, including associated habitats. The habitats to sustain the property’s integrity are under threat from mining and community activities such as agriculture.

In the Guinean part, an enclave where mining has occurred is directly adjacent to the property. Even if this exploitation is technically outside the property, it remains questionable as to whether it may be worked without affecting the integrity of this property. Therefore the proposed property in Liberia is in danger of loosing significance resulting from mining.

Protection

Since 1944, Mount Nimba enjoys the status of strict protection in its northern part – today shared between Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. The Reserve is clearly delineated by its natural boundaries (water ways) recognized and respected by the neighbouring populations. In Côte d’Ivoire, its status has been strengthened by Law 2002-102 of 11 February 2002 that confers the quality of public domain inalienable to the State. All the land rights of the Reserve are now the exclusive property of the State and any installation of human activity is prohibited. In addition to the legal framework, the Ivorian State has established a reinforced institutional framework that decentralises certain administrative functions to the Ivorian Office of Parks and Reserves (OIPR) by decree No. 2002-359 of 24 July 2002 and to the Foundation for Parks and Reserves (FPRCI) to seek permanent funding.

With regard to Guinea, the 1944 status remains the legal basis for protection. The Liberian side of Mount Nimba is a legally gazzeted Protected Area since October 10, 2003. It serves as a source of water reservoir. It is important that this protection is transcribed in Guinean law by means of a legal process. The administration of the Reserve is assured by a public establishment of administrative and scientific character (Centre for the Management of the Environment of Mount Nimba-Simandou (CEGENS)) under the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests and Sustainable Development. The Guinean part was pronounced Biosphere Reserve in 1980.

Management of ENNR

East Nimba Nature Reserve (ENNR) was established by an Act of Legislature in 2003. A co- management agreement was also signed between Forestry Development Authority and three communities bordering the reserve such as Sehyi, Gba, and Zor in 2013. The management plan is the first for ENNR and covers a period of five years. The Act has a clear mandate for the Protection of Conservation Area. The  co-management agreement  with the  communities of the reserve basic goal and specific   objective  is  to ensure  a collaborative protection and management of the reserve with involvement of the local; this approach is working well at the  three communities level and has strengthened awareness and education in the area in view of   its status  as a Key Biodiversity Area, an Alliance for Zero Extinction  site , an Important Bird Area. There is also a Tri-National Agreement with Cote d’ iviore and Guinea.

The massif is threatened by increased pressure adjacent to the boundaries of the site, caused by the neighbouring populations and increased demographic pressure. Although the natural forests that cover the slopes of Nimba have not suffered much damage, on the contrary, the fauna has been the subject of very intense poaching. The need for land for agriculture and cattle breeding has strengthened the traditional practice of clearing by fire. Additionally, farming activities, Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) harvesting and hunting in bordering forests of the reserve could spell danger for fauna species of the reserve as there are no borders for wildlife. These anthropic fires occur regularly in the protected area, constituting an important administrative challenge. The participation of the neighbouring population in conservation measures is indispensible to remedy these problems.

Surveillance of the property must be assured to dissuade the practices that damage its integrity. Also, the capacities of the management authorities must be reinforced both at the technical and human resource levels as well as the financial means.

However, there are also several related problems of management that are cardinal to the effective management of the reserve on a long term basis. There is inadequate staff, low training opportunity, lack of logistics for effective monitoring, inadequate provision of livelihoods for communities around ENNR. However, with the requisite funding and logistics coupled with increase coordination between FDA and bordering communities of the reserve, sustained protection of the area is bound to prevail.

Comparison with other similar properties

ENNR, as an extension of Mount Nimba (Cote D’voire) and in Guinea (though under threat from iron ore exploitation), represents a scarce ecosystem in the world that shelter a particular and rare species of vivipian toad (Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis). This species is critically threatened with extinction due to its very reduced breeding area, only lives in high altitude habitats. Another endemic species in danger of extinction is the micropotamogale of Mount Nimba (Micropotamogale lamottei), a small semi-aquatic insectivore, species of threatened primates such as the chimpanzees ( Pantroglodytes verus ) capable of using tools. ENNR therefore adds value to conservation of the Mt Nimba as an entire ecosystem covering the three countries.

Compared to the Rwenzori National Park (Uganda), and in terms of fauna, ENNR has a unique diverse representation of fauna. While the Rwenzoris have been recognised as an Important Bird Area with 217 bird species, and threatened species such as the African forest elephant, eastern chimpanzee and l’Hoest’s monkey, the endangered ENNR chimpanzees ( Pantroglodytes verus ) capable of using tools appears to be very restricted to the Mt Nimba.

ENNR, as part of the transnational serial nomination could be compared to Simien and Bale Mountains (Ethiopia), the Eastern Arch (Mt Kenya).