Lopé National Park


Lopé National Park is a national park in central Gabon. Bordered by the Ogooué River to the north and the Chaillu Massif to the south, the park takes up roughly 4912 square kilometers.[1] Although the terrain is mostly monsoon forest, in the north the park contains the last remnants of grass savannas created in Central Africa during the last ice age, 15,000 years ago.[2] It was the first protected area in Gabon when the Lopé-Okanda Wildlife Reserve was created in 1946, and in 2007, the national park and surrounding Lopé-Okanda landscape were added to the World Heritage List by UNESCO because of its biodiversity, unique savanna-forest transitional zone, and the spectacular petroglyphs in the region.

Lopé National Park has dry weather compared to the rest of Gabon, being located in the rain shadow of the Chaillu Massif. In addition, there a low band of rainfall along the Ogooué River.[3] As a result, the landscape contains a complex mosaic of dense tropical rainforests and savannas. The boundary (called an ecotone) between the two habitats has shifted since the last ice age, with the rainforest expanding into the savanna, although the dry climate has allowed the savanna ecosystem to persist in the north of the park.

Because of the complex environment, the national park contains unusually high biodiversity across many taxa. Over 1,550 plant species have been recorded to date, with many regions of the park yet to be explored fully.[4] In a survey of land snails in the park, 74 species were found from 12 different families.[5] The park also provides critical habitat for the leopard, protecting healthy populations of its prey species including the red river hogAfrican forest buffalo, and cane rat.[6] Other mammal species found in the part include the endangered giant pangolin and tree pangolin, often sharing nests with Microchiroptera bat species.