Dzanga-sangha Dense Forest Reserve
This reserve in the far southwestern corner is one of the newest, with some of the highest population densities anywhere of massive lowland gorillas (an estimated 2,000) and forest elephants (an estimated 3,000) with smaller ears and straighter tusks than their savannah cousins.
Dark crowned eagles, largest and fiercest of Africa’s forest eagles with five-foot-plus (1.55-m) wingspreads, perform year-round aerial displays and prey commonly on small forest antelopes as heavy as they are, caching in nearby trees whatever they can’t eat or carry away. Blue-breasted kingfishers whistle in forest fringes, more intent on insects than fish. In the underbrush are melodious, orange-breasted, snowy-crowned robinchats mimicking all the others.
Rare, striped bongo antelopes venture shyly into forest clearings with forest buffalo,warthogs, waterbucks, giant forest hogs, chimpanzees, and DeBrazza’s monkeys with piercing eyes and long white goatee-beards. If unwary, all can be prey to stealthy leopards.
Forest elephants, a keystone species, make life easier for everybody by bulldozing forest trails and digging for minerals around tree roots, creating sun-drenched treefall gaps in forest glades that become a tangle of herbaceous vegetation for primates and grazers alike. Everywhere are explosions of colorful butterflies.
Until 1986, anyone could come on this 1,683 square miles (4,359 km2) of wild forest and savannah and shoot anything. Since then, the government working with WWF and others has declared the area a national park and dense forest preserve protecting two core no-hunting areas, Ndoki Park and Dzanga Park, usually referred to together as DZANGA-NDOKI PARK.