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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Central African Republic entry 1: Destination Dzanga-Sangha
Munir Virani — in Central Africa Project    Share

Editor's note: The following article is from Rebecca Johnson and Gus Keys, volunteers working to begin The Peregrine Fund's project in the Central African Republic.

As we dropped down towards the small town of Bayanga in our tiny plane, we could hardly believe that we were finally on our way to the Central African Republic. Through the clouds we could see the vast Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve spreading out into the distance, cloaking the hills with countless species of tree. As we flew over one of the many “bais”, natural open areas within the rainforest, Rod Cassidy, our host at Sangha Lodge, spotted a forest elephant, and then the Lodge itself nestled amongst the trees on a bend in the mighty Sangha River. Not a bad place to call home for the next six weeks.

Dzanga-Sangha is most famous for its mammals, most notably Western Lowland Gorillas, Forest Elephants, Bongo Antelopes and Forest Buffalos. Though a large amount of research has been carried out on these species, very little formal research has been done on birds, particularly raptors. Nearly 400 bird species have been recorded in the Reserve, including around 35 birds of prey.

Munir Virani, Africa Programmes Director with the Peregrine Fund, told us that he has been keen to undertake a raptor project in Dzanga-Sangha for many years now. When friend and fellow African birder Rod Cassidy purchased Sangha Lodge in the heart of the Reserve in 2009, the idea became a reality. And we are the lucky people who get to spend the coming weeks searching the forest, rivers and bais for raptors. With the help of local BaAka pygmy trackers, we hope to get a handle on birds of prey here in the heart of Africa, and perhaps pave the way for a larger project in future.

The Central African Republic (CAR) is located on the northwestern limit of the Congo Basin. It is around one and a half times the size of France, and the southern part of the country consists of several million hectares of rainforest. Dzanga-Sangha, along with its neighbours Nouabalé Ndoki Park in the Congo and the Lobéké in Cameroon, make up the Sangha River Tri-National Protected Area. The World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) and other international conservation organizations are trying to work together with the governments of these countries to try to protect the area, part of the second largest area of rainforest on Earth.

We look forward to keeping you updated on the project over the coming weeks, so keep an eye on the Peregrine Fund’s Notes From The Field blog site.

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