Mount Nimba Nature Reserve


The huge species diversity found in Guinea’s Mount Nimba Nature Reserve, one of the richest in Africa, is due to the variety of habitats on its eroded quartzite mountain spine, which is known as the “Guinean backbone.” This U.N. World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve of 66 square miles (171 km2) marks the intersection of Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, and Liberia. Covered with grasslands, wooded savannah, and stream-laced forests, the range rises abruptly from the plains and rolling hills of the surrounding lowlands, reaching 5,780 feet (1,752 m) at Mont Richard- Molard, a starkly beautiful barrier along the country’s northeast–southwest axis. The southern side gathers moisture from the Atlantic, while the rain-shadowed northern side is subject to dry Harmattan winds from the Sahara. Standing in dramatic isolation from its surroundings, it may have served as a refugium for species that endured the last ice ages.

Birds of the Guinean Nimba Mountains are likely to be similar at corresponding altitudes to those of the Liberian side where some 380 species have been recorded. Threatened species include green-tailed bristlebills, the very local Sierra Leone prinia, and yellow-headed picathartes (or rock fowl). Some 2,000 vascular plants include more than 100 orchid species, among them at least 35 endemics.

Visits can be arranged for organized groups.

Major threats include slash-and-burn agriculture plus iron-ore mining, which already has damaged the Liberian section by removing soil and poisoning streams with heavy metal runoff, along with collateral damage from mine workers and related logistical activities. As Liberian deposits are exhausted, pressure has mounted on Guinea, which has iron-ore deposits estimated at 300 million metric tonnes as well as diamonds, gold, copper, manganese, uranium, and the world’s third-largest deposits of bauxite, used in aluminum. The area is under threat as well from large numbers of Liberian civil war refugees.

Deforestation has cost Guinea, a country just slightly larger than Britain—95,000 square miles (246,000 km2)—almost 98 percent of its original forest, including much of the mangrove along its 175-mile (280-km) coastline. Environmental consciousness in Guinea has risen in recent years, however, and conservation is becoming a concern.

ALSO OF INTEREST
Among important protected areas are the following:

Massif du Ziama, a 448-square-mile (1,162-km2) World Biosphere Reserve northwest of Mount Nimba (and c. 60 miles/100 km northwest of Nzérékoré), with similar ecology. Some 287 bird species have been recorded, including brown-cheeked hornbills, western wattled cuckooshrikes, black-capped rufous warblers, and Nimba flycatchers.

Diécké Forest Reserve, a 266-square-mile (688-km2) lowland rain forest in the extreme southeast, south of Nzérékoré, close to the Liberian border. Threatened and near-threatened species include chimpanzees, Diana monkeys, sooty mangabeys, four species of forest duikers (Jentinck’s, black, yellow-backed, and zebra), bongos, giant forest hogs, and West African dwarf crocodiles. Rare birds include yellow-casqued hornbills, rufous-winged illadopsis, coppertailed glossy starlings, and gold malimbes, only recently discovered.

Badiar National Park, created in 1985, adjacent to Senegal’s NIOKOLO-KOBA NATIONALPARK, is a mosaic of savannah types and gallery forest, 147 square miles (382 km2) with elephants, roan antelopes, kobs, leopards, spotted hyenas, baboons.

Haut Niger National Park, established in 1997, about 2,350 square miles (6,100 km2) protecting one of the last remnants of relatively intact dry woodlands in the West African Guinea savannah belt. A small group of surviving lions has found refuge here. Over 300 bird species have been recorded. International flights go to the capital, Conakry, with lodging and car rentals. Best time to visit is dry season November–April. Major roads are usually passable year-round, but roads to or in protected areas are often poor, necessitating 4WD. Buses and mini-buses are cheap, but car rental (requiring a driver) is expensive. Some major towns can be reached by air.

 Baboons are Africa’s largest monkeys, their doglike heads unmistakable. They’ll eat anything—grass, crocodile eggs, even newborn antelopes. They like to drink every day but can survive for long periods by licking night dew from their fur. Main predators are leopards, but even leopards hesitate to take on a baboon’s long, sharp fangs.

Baboons are Africa’s largest monkeys, their doglike heads unmistakable. They’ll eat anything—grass, crocodile eggs, even newborn antelopes. They like to drink every day but can survive for long periods by licking night dew from their fur. Main predators are leopards, but even leopards hesitate to take on a baboon’s long, sharp fangs.

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MOUNT NIMBA NATURE RESERVE as well as..

Massif du Ziama World Biosphere

Diécké Forest Reserve

Badiar National Park

Haut Niger National Park

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