With 9130 km² the national park is the largest contiguous nature reserve in West Africa. It is characterized by an extremely rich flora and fauna, including over 80 different species of mammals. Various crocodile species and hippos live on the banks of the Gambia and its tributary Niokolo-Koba. The savannah and the gallery forests are the habitat of lions, leopards, chimpanzees, baboons and eland. Due to poaching and a dam project, the national park was put on the red list in 2007.
Niokolo-Koba National Park: Facts
|Official title:||Niokolo-Koba National Park|
|Natural monument||Established as a hunting reserve in 1926, national park since 1954, with 9130 km² the largest contiguous nature reserve in West Africa|
|location||Southeast of Senegal, in the river basin of the Gambia, Sénégal-Oriental and Casamance|
|appointment||1981; on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger since 2007|
|meaning||Flora and fauna in the transition zone between dry savannah and gallery forest|
|Flora and fauna||predominantly Sudanese-Guinean forest savannah, gallery forests on the rivers, 1500 plant species, among others. 50 m high kapok and 40 m high khaya trees; Phoenix palms, up to 15 m high, dense bamboo bushes and savanna grasses; 80 species of mammals, including an estimated 200 elephants, 800 hippos, 150 chimpanzees, as well as hussar monkeys, colobus monkeys; Eland, hyrax, gorse cats, lions, leopards, Gambian sun squirrels; the only habitat in Senegal for giraffes; 330 species of birds, including rhinoceros, toothed and weaver birds as well as bee-eaters, as well as 20 amphibian and 60 fish species|
In the realm of big cats and elephants
In Mali, Gambia, Guinea-Bissão and Guinea-Conakry, the Sénégal-Oriental is home to the realm of predators and elephants. The local landscape is varied: wide sandy steppes, then water-rich gorges overgrown with lush greenery. Mountain ranges with peaks barely over 300 meters rise as mountains in the otherwise flat savannah landscape. The gallery forest stretches along the rivers.
Not far from Tambacounda, the capital of the Sénégal-Oriental, one encounters African wild animals on their seasonal migrations. Three large watercourses, the Gambia, Niokolo and Koulountou rivers, cross the national park established there. During the drought, the rivers are the last places of refuge for elephants, wildebeest, buffalo and eland, who meet their daily fluid needs there. In the early morning, shortly before sunrise, when the coolness of the night has not yet given way to the shimmering heat of the day, the traveler should set out for the river watering.
Niokolo-Koba is by no means a zoological park, but a natural protected area in which the animals can move freely regardless of political borders. It takes some patience, perseverance and a little luck not only to come across the tracks and deposits of the big game, but also to “face them”. However, there is no guarantee of elephant herds and prides of lions. Fortunately, the rich fauna definitely satisfies the curiosity of the visitor, especially since the sensitive observer suspects its game, notices its sounds in good time and gets it photogenic in front of the lens of the camera, regardless of the possibility of using the professional help of a park ranger.
Elephants get up early, and their immense footprints and steaming leftovers, bent branches and still visible wallows on the half-dried watercourses disappoint those who arrive late. Behind every bend in the road he thinks he can still smell it, behind every bush, even if in vain, he can track it down. How lucky it is to find a lioness with her playful cubs at the watering hole: she lies lazily in the rising sun, and only the rhythmic movement of the tail gives an idea that she is attentively observing her surroundings and the foreign intruder from safer Distance eyed suspiciously.
Hippos are more common at the larger waterholes. Like boulders, they stick motionless out of the water for hours. All of a sudden there is movement in the inert mass, huge mouths are unlocked to sounds that seem primeval, and the colossi submerge under snorting and the crash of waves, only to reappear unexpectedly only a few meters away. Your temporary companions, feathered permanent guests with full board, peck the unpopular vermin from the skin of the pachyderms at every opportunity. The short-legged giants rise leisurely from the water at dusk to look for tasty grasses on land. It is difficult to believe that they are herbivores when looking at their fearsome tusks.
Large herds of wildebeest and buffalo, in whose shade shy gazelles crowd, gather in the cool of the evening on the river banks. Meanwhile, chimpanzees and hussar monkeys retreat to their sleeping trees. During the day, however, they seem to be constantly jumping from tree to tree and climbing around. Watching them makes up for some disappointment in the face of missed opportunities. Above all, the all too “human” behavior of the chimpanzees appears to be on display and inadvertently forces the observer to laugh. After all, flocks of colorful birds make for a grandiose spectacle. From yellow to orange and blue, the red-throated beetroot has its “fashionable colors”. With its black and red plumage, the Senegalese furry beak certainly doesn’t have to hide at the »Birds Fashion Ball«.