Comoë National Park
Comoë National Park, a U.N. World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve, largest protected area in West Africa, is 4,440 square miles (11,500 km2) tucked in the country’s northeast corner. Here the country’s largest remaining elephant herds wander freely in forests, grasslands, and savannah of the semidesert Sahel, with buffalo, hippos, waterbucks, bushbucks, kob, and roan antelopes.
Huge Goliath herons build suitably outsized reed platform nests, among more than 400 bird species. Wetlands attract an enormous number and range of ducks, plovers, yellow-billed egrets, black-winged stilts, shining blue and blue-breasted kingfishers, four kinds of storks, Forbes’ and striking Egyptian plovers (aka crocodile-birds). Savannah and gallery forest support strident white-throated francolins, Emin’s shrikes, spotted creepers, brown-rumped buntings, and hammerkops—and if you don’t notice these big, dull, anvil-headed birds, you can’t miss their massive stick-and-mud roofed nests in the fork of a tree, often over water.
A remarkable variety of habitat and plant associations ranges through gallery and open forest to savannah woodland and thick rain forest.
Comoë is northerly limit for yellow-backed duikers, diminutive forest antelopes with spotlight-yellow rumps. More than 150 mammal species include such varied carnivores as lions and leopards, little guineapig- like rock hyraxes—close relatives, though they don’t look it, to elephants—aardvarks and heavily armored giant pangolins with strap-like tongues twice the length of their bodies to probe ant and termite nests.
Anubis or olive baboons troop together in organized clusters of 30 to 150—one of the most social of primates, of which 14 species are here, including white-collared mangabeys, western chimpanzees, black-and-white colobus, and green or vervet, Diana, mona, and whitenosed monkeys. In waterways are hippos and all three African crocodiles, slender-snouted, Nile, and dwarf.
Poaching has been a problem but significantly less so since a 1998 Plan of Action was instituted by the government and local communities with help from the European Union (EU) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to improve village infrastructure and train management and surveillance staff.
Southern park entrances are a day’s drive from Yamoussoukro, and a small airstrip has been under construction. Visitors can stay at a variety of accommodations in Kapin or Ganse at the southern entrances near the Comoë River or in Kafolo or Ouango near the northern entrance onthe border with Burkina-Faso. One of the most interesting of 300 miles (500 km) of tracks follows the Comoë River course 143 miles (230 km) southward. The park is open dawn to dusk during dry-season December–May.
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