Conkouati is situated on the coast in the extreme south-west of the country and against the international frontier with Gabon. It includes the same range of habitats as the Lower Kouilou basin (CG005), which lies immediately to the south-east, with the addition of lagoons, while swamp-forests are far less extensive. Semi-evergreen rainforest is the dominant vegetation-type, from the sublittoral forest-savanna mosaic to the Mayombe massif inland, and covers a wider altitudinal range than does CG005. There are several lagoons of low salinity, of which Conkouati is the largest (c.60 km²). The park is crossed by two roads that reach the Gabon border and the local human population is well over 3,000 inhabitants.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. From two brief surveys some 288 species are known, a total well below the potential (over 400 species). Species of note include Merops malimbicus and Pseudochelidon eurystomina found breeding in October 1996. There are very few documented breeding colonies of this swallow on the central African coast (Gabon); exact location and numbers involved here are not given (Maisels and Cruickshank 2000). Ploceus subpersonatus could occur on the edge of the lagoons. In addition, one species of the Zambezian biome (A10), Lybius minor, has been recorded.
Non-bird biodiversity: The area north of the Ngongo–Loupevi confluence (03°45’S 11°25’E) is relatively untouched and the area west of Cotivindou is especially good for large mammals. Trichechus senegalensis (VU) is hunted occasionally, but still occurs in the Conkouati lagoon and some rivers. Gorilla gorilla (EN), Pan troglodytes (EN) and Loxodonta africana (EN) are common in the north. Syncerus caffer nanus (LR/cd) and Mandrillus sphinx (LR/nt) still occur. Mandrillus sphinx has been virtually eliminated elsewhere in Congo and its status in Conkouati deserves further study.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Conkouati became a Faunal Reserve of some 3,000 km² in 1980. However, about half of this has been under logging concessions and other forms of exploitation for many years, including mining (although the latter is now suspended). Despite these difficulties, Conkouati became a National Park in August 1999, with a total size of 5,050 km² (of which c. 2,000 km² are a marine extension not considered in this site). The terrestrial portion of the park includes several important logging concessions (in operation) and many villages in a zone of ‘eco-development’—in contradiction of the law on National Parks. IUCN has been involved with the management of the reserve from 1993–1999, and the Wildlife Conservation Society (New York) with that of the new park since its creation. The control of poaching (especially large mammals) in the logging concessions, and around the villages (where marine turtles come to breed) is proving very difficult. Conkouati is also the site of a reintroduction programme, run by the association HELP, of orphaned Pan troglodytes. Hunting is severely affecting mammal populations (the Conkouati area contributes significantly to the bush-meat market of Pointe-Noire), but it is doubtful whether most birds are presently threatened, except bee-eaters (and perhaps the river martins) which are snared or netted in numbers at their breeding colonies.