Sometimes 1,000 or so gather in a single clearing, foraging on mushrooms or fallen fruit, turning over stones to find insect grubs. They may stay for weeks or months before moving on. No one really knows why they have such bright colors, though it’s known that dominant males have the brightest.
Up to 20,000 western lowland gorillas are here as well, along with more than 60,000 forest elephants, an abundance of chimpanzees, forest buffalo, aardvarks, armored giant pangolins, a few rare, shy striped bongo forest antelopes, and some stunning birds, in large part because so much welcoming habitat remains intact or nearly so in this country just twice the size of England. Straddling the equator on Africa’s west-central coast, its 103,000 square miles (267,000 km2) are a river-laced patchwork of tidal mangrove swamps, savannah, deep forest, and mountains, part of the Guineo-Congolian region which is the most biologically diverse on the continent. Some 74 percent of its lush rain forest has remained untouched, at least until recently, the largest undisturbed forest block in Africa, its major ecosystems for the most part intact.
The world’s most colorful mammals are here in their greatest numbers anywhere—heavy-set male mandrills with red-and-electric-blue faces, buff-golden beards, naked scarlet, pink-and-violet rumps, and grizzled, densely furred manes and bodies.
Strikingly beautiful birds include black-headed and rosy bee-eaters, purple-throated cuckoo-shrikes, chocolate-backed kingfishers, vermiculated fishing owls, bubbling cisticolas, long-tailedhawks (tails as long as their bodies), violet-tailed sunbirds, brilliant bare-cheeked trogons, among a total of some 670 species.
A dozen reserves have been set aside in various stages of protection and development (not counting forest reserves) covering just over six percent of the country.
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LOPÉ FAUNAL RESERVE as well as...
Bateke Plateaux National Park
More about the Reserves in Gabon
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