Elusive Species

If the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park is an ideal place to observe large iconic mammals in their natural environment, its forest is also home to many species that know how to stay out of sight. These species, often nocturnal and/or arboreal, feed fantasies and beliefs that make them sometimes prized and hunted. These are the species that we may hear, that we think we see, that surround us without being seen.
In local languages : depending on the species - Kokolo (Mbangombe) for the long-tailed pangolin, Kaka (Lingala), Kanjono (Mbangombe), Ekadi (Bendzele) for the white-bellied pangolin, or Piguie (Lingala), Kelepa (Mbangombe), Ekadi (Bendzele) for the giant pangolin.
The three species of pangolins present in Nouabalé-Ndoki, at first sight similar, vary greatly: the endangered giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) can measure up to 1m, and only comes out of its burrow at night, while the long-tailed pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla) is only 40cm long, arboreal and diurnal. The tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis), on the other hand, is distinguished by a pale and shorter face, is nocturnal, and can nest in trees as well as on ground.

They have in common that they feed on insects by breaking termite mounds and ant hills with their sharp claws. All three species are covered with scales, which constitute up to 20% of their total weight and allow them to protect themselves from their predators by rolling themselves into a ball. These scales are also one of the main reasons why they are the most trafficked mammals in the world: used in traditional medicine, these scales, although made of keratin, are sold at a high price on some Asian markets.
In local languages : Ngoyi (Lingala), Embongo (Bendzele), Suwa (Mbangombe)
Leopards (Panthera pardus) are found in different parts of Africa and Asia, in habitats ranging from steppe to arid and mountainous areas as well as rainforests. The leopard is the largest predator in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, opportunistically hunting ungulates and primates. It may even stalk and ambush gorillas, usually children or sub-adults.

Solitary and territorial, adult leopards only socialize for mating; females may be accompanied by their offspring even after weaning and share prey with them. With the exception of humans, leopards are the only other predators of great apes.

Leopards can grow up to 180 cm long with a tail of about one meter. The female is slightly smaller. The species is classified as vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching for skins or traditional rites of passage.
Tree Hyraxes
In local languages : Ngandou (Lingala), Epoyo, Boualo (Bendzele), Yoka (Mbangombe)
The tree hyrax (Dendrohyrax dorsalis) is a small nocturnal mammal native to Africa. Despite the lack of a visible tail, due to its size and appearance, the hyrax was long considered a rodent, before these small woolly animals were classified in an order of their own, the Hyracoidea. They are generally solitary, nocturnal and very skilled at climbing thanks to their elongated feet and hands. The species present in Nouabalé-Ndoki is distinguished by a particularly dark coat with a white dorsal trace. They feed on leaves, fruits and twigs in the canopy, and nest high up. Although they are very rarely seen, it is impossible not to hear them: male tree hyraxes utter loud, cracking and shrill territorial calls in the early evening and often a second time later in the night, which can at first sound like the cries of a person in distress.
Clawless Otter
In local languages : Londo (Lingala), Djoko (Bendzele).
The Congo clawless otter (Aonyx congicus) is the least studied of the African otters. Based on its morphology, this species is thought to be primarily terrestrial, using swamps and forests to feed on mollusks, wasps, crabs and small vertebrates found on muddy banks.
It is a very large otter that can measure up to a meter long, with a white bib, nose and ears. They owe their lack of claws to their adaptation to better develop their touch and thus be able to navigate opaque muddy waters. It is a powerful animal that can escape the attentions of most predators (crocodiles,, eagles or leopards).

Solitary and elusive, they are a particularly rare and cherished sight in the baïs of Mbeli and Wali.