Situated in north-eastern Côte d’Ivoire, near the borders with Ghana and Burkina Faso, Comoé National Park is the largest national park in West Africa. Much of the park is drained by the Comoé river which flows south through the park for some 230 km. Savanna woodlands cover 70% of the park, with tree cover varying between 2% and 70%. Dominant tree species vary, often with soil type, and include Isoberliniadoka, Crossopteryx febrifuga, Daniellia oliveri, Burkea africana and Terminalia avicennioides. Between the trees there is a herb layer up to 2 m high in which grasses such as Brachiaria jubata, Andropogon africanus and Hyparrhenia rufa are common. The woodlands are burnt by bush fires, most anthropogenic, every dry season (November–March). Riparian forests fringe the Comoé river and its larger tributaries to a distance varying from a few to several hundred metres; larger tree species include Cynometramegalophylla, Colacordifolia and Manilkaramultinervis. In addition, isolated forest patches of varying size, non-riparian in origin, occur throughout the woodland. Some of these are wetter types, similar in composition to the riparian forests; others are drier, possibly representing a closed form of savanna woodland. Other habitat-types include alluvial plains and flat ironstone outcrops, both of which are covered with sparse seasonal marsh vegetation. Average annual rainfall is 1,100–1,300 mm.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. A total of 494 species has been recorded from the park. This total includes five species of global conservation concern. Three of these, Circus macrourus, Falco naumanni and Gallinago media, are merely rare migrants from the Palearctic for which there are few recent records. The other two are the hornbills Ceratogymna elata and C. cylindricus (the latter also restricted-range), both of which are now very rare. In addition, there are also a few old records of the restricted-range Apalis sharpei. The high species-diversity is a reflection of both the large size of the site and the range of habitat-types that occur. Fifty species of raptor have been recorded and there are breeding populations of species that have become rare over much of West Africa, such as Leptoptilos crumeniferus, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Haliaeetus vocifer and Neotis denhami. In addition, at least 31 species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome have been recorded from this site; see Table 3.
Non-bird biodiversity: Of the 54 species of larger mammal that occur, the following are of conservation concern: Pan troglodytes verus (EN), Colobus vellerosus (VU), Cercocebus atys lunulatus (EN), Cercopithecus diana rolowayi (EN), Lycaon pictus (EN), Mungos gambianus (DD), Panthera leo (VU), Loxodonta africana africana (EN), Hylochoerus meinertzhageneriivoriensis (VU), Syncerus caffer (LR/cd), Cephalophus maxwellii (LR/nt), C. rufilatus (LR/cd), C. niger (LR/nt), C. sylvicultor (LR/nt), C. dorsalis (LR/nt), Ourebia ourebi (LR/cd), Redunca redunca (LR/cd), Kobus kob kob (LR/cd), Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa (LR/cd), Alcelaphus buselaphus major (LR/cd) and Hippotragus equinus (LR/cd).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Created a National Park in 1968, Comoé is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site. Despite this, a number of problems affect the park. Against the background of a rising human population density around the park’s periphery, poaching is widespread, there is much fishing of the Comoé river within the park, and agriculture and cattle-grazing encroach along its northern fringe. Attempts are currently being made to address these issues: a park management project, as part of the nationwide multi-donor effort to improve protected-area management, is being executed in Comoé by government authorities with technical assistance provided by WWF and funding from the European Union.