Situated in the north-western Congo Basin, where Cameroon, Central African Republic and Congo meet, the site encompasses three contiguous national parks totalling around 750,000 ha. Much of the site is unaffected by human activity and features a wide range of humid tropical forest ecosystems with rich flora and fauna, including Nile crocodiles and goliath tigerfish, a large predator. Forest clearings support herbaceous species and Sangha is home to considerable populations of forest elephants, critically endangered western lowland gorilla, and endangered chimpanzee. The site’s environment has preserved the continuation of ecological and evolutionary processes on a huge scale and great biodiversity, including many endangered animal species.
Outstanding Universal Value
Sangha Trinational (TNS) is a transboundary conservation complex in the North-western Congo Basin where Cameroon, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo meet. TNS encompasses three contiguous national parks totalling a legally defined area of 746,309 hectares. These are Lobéké National Park in Cameroon, Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic and Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. Dzanga-Ndoki National Park is comprised of two distinct units. The parks are embedded in a much larger forest landscape, sometimes referred to as the TNS Landscape. A buffer zone of 1,787,950 hectares has been established in recognition of the importance of the broader landscape and its inhabitants for the future of the property. The buffer zone inlcudes Dzanga-Sanga Forest Reserve in the Central African Republic, which connects the two units of Dzanga-Ndoki National Park.
Natural values and features include the ongoing ecological and evolutionary processes in a mostly intact forest landscape at a very large scale. Numerous and diverse habitats such as tropical forests comprised of deciduous and evergreen species, a great diversity of wetland types, including swamp forests and periodically flooded forests and many types of forest clearings of major conservation importance continue to be connected at a landscape level. This mosaic of ecosystems harbours viable populations of complete faunal and floral assemblages, including top predators and rare and endangered species, such as Forest Elephants, Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and several antelope species, such as the Sitatunga and the emblematic Bongo.
Criterion (ix): The property is characterised by its large size, further supported by the very large buffer zone, minimal disturbance over long periods and intactness thereby enabling the continuation of ecological and evolutionary processes at a huge scale. This includes the continuous presence of viable populations and natural densities of wildlife, including top predators and large mammals which are often affected by hunting and poaching elsewhere. There is a fully connected mosaic of very diverse habitats, including numerous types of ecologically remarkable forest clearings attracting major wildlife aggregations and countless plant species otherwise not found in the forest landscape. Unlike many other forest protected areas, the property is not a remaining fragment but continues to be part of a much larger intact and landscape with good conservation prospects. This is increasingly rare and significant at a global scale.
Criterion (x): The property represents a wide spectrum of the species-rich humid tropical forests in Central Africa’s Congo Basin, and provides protection for a range of endangered species. The flora is enriched by species occurring exclusively in the many types of forest clearings. TNS protects a large number of tree species which are heavily commercially exploited elsewhere, such as the critically endangered Mukulungu. In addition to viable populations of forest elephants, significant populations of the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla and the endangered Chimpanzee occur both in and around the property, together with several endangered antelope species, such as the Sitatunga and the emblematic Bongo.
The boundaries of the property coincide with the boundaries of three existing national parks thereby forming a large and contiguous protected area in the heart of the broader TNS Landscape. The entire property is surrounded by a large buffer zone in all three countries which responds to the intricate ecological linkages between the property and its surroundings. This approach provides an umbrella for land-use planning and for integrating the legitimate livelihood needs of local and indigenous communities with nature conservation within the broader TNS landscape. Logging and hunting is banned in the national parks. In addition, the remoteness of TNS adds a natural layer of protection from resource exploitation. It will be essential to ensure that the future activities in the buffer zones, including forest and wildlife management, tourism, agriculture and infrastructure are fully compatible with the conservation objectives for TNS so the surrounding landscape will satisfy the needs of local and indigenous communities while indeed serving as a “buffer” for the property.
Protection and management requirements
There is strong and committed joint management of the property bringing together all three States Parties, an indispensable permanent requirement. The three national parks that make up the property all have management and administrative staff provided by governments and if needed complemented through international support from non-governmental organizations, as well as multi-lateral and bi-lateral agencies. Management, law enforcement, research, monitoring and tourism all require coordination across the national boundaries. There is a Trinational Monitoring and Action Committee (Comité Trinational de Suivi et d'Action), bringing together the three countries at the ministerial level. A Trinational Monitoring Committee unites the three countries at the level of regional administrations. These mechanisms are effective in providing a joint protection and management approach to the property, and will need to be maintained and built upon.
The rights and traditional livelihoods of local and indigenous peoples, such as the BaAkas, are a fundamental and increasingly recognised element in the management of the property. Whereas in Lobéké National Park (Cameroon) there are use zones within the park, in the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo, local resource use, including indigenous hunting and gathering, is not permitted in the protected areas thereby affecting local livelihoods and creating the potential for conflict. This illustrates the crucial importance of finding an overall balance between nature conservation and local resource use in the broader landscape. The significantly enlarged buffer zone presents an opportunity to better understand and integrate the livelihood needs but also the knowledge of local and indigenous communities under the umbrella of a living TNS landscape. The inscription on the World Heritage List presents a concrete opportunity for the States Parties to translate a range of different commitments of the States Parties regarding the rights of local and indigenous people into action on the ground.
Maintaining the ecological values of the property will not only depend on law enforcement but eventually both on the standards of commercial resource extraction in the buffer zone and the acceptance and support of parks by the local and indigenous communities in the surrounding landscape.