Niokolo-Koba National Park
Since 1981 • Natural • In danger
Located in a well-watered area along the banks of the Gambia river, the gallery forests and savannahs of Niokolo-Koba National Park have a very rich fauna, among them Derby elands (largest of the antelopes), chimpanzees, lions, leopards and a large population of elephants, as well as many birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Niokolo-Koba National Park covers 913,000 ha of the Guinea savannah of Senegal, with significant areas of bush land and gallery forest along both banks of the upper Gambia River. The area is rich in wildlife, with over 70 species of mammal, 329 bird, 36 reptile, 20 amphibian and vast numbers of invertebrates. The lions are a special attraction, reputed to be Africa's largest; Derby's eland, an endangered species, is the world's largest antelope. Other endangered species include chimpanzees, leopards and elephants. With around 1 million hectares, Niokolo-Koba certainly has sufficient size to demonstrate the key aspects of the functioning Guinea savannah ecosystem, and to ensure the survival of the endangered species contained therein. The park is a relatively flat region, with small lines of hills reaching about 200 m, separated by wide floodplains which become inundated during the rains. The park is crossed by the River Gambia and its two tributaries, the Niokolo Koba and the Koulountou.
Vegetation varies from a southern Sudanian type to Guinean with savannah predominant, more luxuriant vegetation along the course of the rivers and a varying cover of trees and bushes. This vegetation changes its character according to topography and soils. In the valleys and plains there are vast areas of Vetiveria and herbaceous savannahs. Seasonally flooded grassland is typically composed of Paspalum arbiculare and Echinochloa . Dry forest is made up of Sudanian species. There are also areas of bamboo. In ravines and gallery forests species indicative of a south Guinean climate are present, with lianes very abundant. On the edges of rivers semi-aquatic species, occur and annuals, which disappear when the water level rises, are found in the periodically flooded sands. Ponds are bordered by either dry forests or herbaceous savannahs, depending on humidity and soil compaction. Occasionally the centre of a marsh is occupied by thick thorn bushes of Mimosa pigra . Carnivores include leopard, lion and hunting dog. There are also buffalo roan, giant eland, Guinea baboon, green and patas monkey, bay colobus, all three African crocodiles and dwarf crododile, four tortoise species, and hippopotamus which is present in all three large watercourses. The park is the last refuge in Senegal for giraffe and elephant. About 150 chimpanzees live in the gallery forest of the park and on Mont Assirik (the north-western limit of their distribution). Birds include Denham's bustard, ground hornbill, violet turaco, spur-winged goose, white-faced tree duck, martial eagle and bateleur.
Created as a Hunting Reserve in 1926, Forest Reserve in 1951 and a Fauna Reserve on 19 April 1953 and enlarged by Decrees of 1962, 1965, 1968 and 1969. Accepted as Biosphere Reserve and inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List in 1981.