When conservationists from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Congo’s Ministry of Forest Economy first arrived in Bomassa village in the late 1980s, they were intent on exploring an area of forest that at that time lay within the Nouabalé Forest Management Unit, one of a handful of forestry concessions that had not yet been attributed to a logging company. This meant that they had a small but important window of opportunity to ensure this remote pocket of Central African forest would be designated as a National Park and remain free of logging. They have been heard, and on 31 December 1993, the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park was created.
Building on work conducted by researchers from Kyoto University in Japan, conservationists had proven the immeasurable value of the biodiversity in this remote part of the Congo Basin’s rainforest. Their surveys allowed them to confirm local stories of a large swampy clearing, or bai, in the southwest of the future park, known as Mbeli Baï, the presence of “naïve” chimpanzees (who had never before encountered humans) in the Goualougo area, and networks of elephant trails around the Bonye and Mabale Rivers that hinted at a significant elephant population. In a well-chosen headline, a Time magazine article from the period referred to the area as the “Last Eden.”
One of the first known pictures of Bomassa, taken in 1989 by Tomo Nishihara
In 1994, the first observation platform was built at Mbeli Baï, from which long-term data collection on wildlife visiting the clearing began, and continues to this day. In Bomassa, the nearest village to the Park boundary, an elementary school was established, where the “Club Ebobo” works to educate young people about the importance of wildlife and their environment.
The following year, data collection and gorilla habituation started in Mondika. In 1998, the Goualougo research site was established, shortly before the Park embarked on an unprecedented partnership with one of the logging companies managing some of the concessions that surround the Park, CIB (Congolaise Industrielle des Bois), to expand wildlife protection efforts beyond the boundaries of the protected area. The Park's Peripheral Ecosystem Management Project (PROGEPP) was a pioneering first step toward a comprehensive landscape approach to protection, which the creation of the transboundary Sangha Tri-National (TNS) conservation area further strengthened in the early 2000s.
The following decade saw many achievements for the Park. In June 2003, the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park was extended to include an area to its south, known as the Goualougo Triangle. In 2012, the Sangha Tri-National was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, in recognition of the site’s wide range of humid tropical forest ecosystems, rich flora and fauna, and relatively low levels of disturbance.
However, elephant poaching was also increasing significantly over the same period, due to the increase in the price of ivory on the international markets.
It was in response to this surge in threats that the Nouabalé-Ndoki Foundation was created, thanks to a public-private partnership signed in 2014 between the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Congolese Ministry of Forest Economy (MEF).
Ecogards Achille and Massampou, in 1991
This partnership dramatically improved the governance of the Park and
has resulted in a significant increase in conservation efforts. Poaching
has been curtailed, and 2017 wildlife inventories indicated stable to
increasing animal populations in and around the Park.
In 2023, the Djéké Triangle, where the Mondika research camp is located,
has been included in the Park. The Park now covers a total of 4,334