The National Park of Upper Niger is a recently gazetted national park in Guinea in northwestern Africa. The park covers around 6000 square km of in the north-eastern area of the country, of which 600 square km comprise the core area.
The park protects important tracts of forest and savannah, and is considered a conservation priority for West Africa as a whole.
Areas of low human impact are comparatively rare now in Guinea, and found only in areas of low population density. One such area is that of the Mafou Forest, the last remaining area of dry forest in Guinea and one of the few left in West Africa.
This area has a low population because of the widespread incidences of river-blindness and as a result of the atrocities of Samory Touré in the latter part of the 19th century. The area has been little disturbed in the last 50 years.
The park comprises two zones, a core protected zone and a buffer zone in which local people are encouraged to use the resources of the part in a sustainable way. Farming and the collecting of non-timber forest products is permitted.
The government manages fishing, hunting and timber harvesting in cooperation with local communities.
Ecology of the park
The park covers several ecological zones and the dominant is that of savannah, consisting of woodland and bush-land. A smaller area of the park consists of riparian forests along the Niger and Mafou Rivers.
Around five percent of the park is agricultural, along the edges of the park. The park is subject to frequent fires during the dry season.
Fauna of the park
Surveys of the park have shown a diverse mammalian and avian fauna. Over 94 species of mammals have been found in the park, and more can be inferred.
Important species found in the park include giant pangolins, West African chimpanzees, Gambian mongooses (a rare, endemic species that seems to be well represented in the park), Kob, and spot-necked otters. Lions and African manatees have also recently been confirmed. The African elephant once existed in the park but is currently extinct there.
Threats to the park
There is a large trade in hunted animals from the park. At present this is carefully managed by park authorities, who feel that creating incentives for careful management of the resources is the best way to protect the forest as a whole.
This is in line with current trends in community conservation.