Located in the south-west corner of the country, between the Cavally and Sassandra rivers, Taï National Park (330,000 ha) is the largest and best-preserved remnant of Upper Guinea rainforest. Contiguous with its northern border is the Nzo Faunal Reserve (93,000 ha), which forms part of the buffer zone that surrounds the park, and which itself extends north to the southern edge of the artificial lake formed behind Buyo dam on the Sassandra river. Also included is the remainder of the park’s buffer zone, which is also a Faunal Reserve and which occupies a further 96,000 ha. The terrain is gently undulating in the north, more deeply dissected by watercourses in the south, of which the largest are the Nzé, Hana and Meno rivers, about 1.5 m deep, 5 m wide in the dry season, seasonally flooding to a width of 60 m or more. The most prominent of a large number of granitic inselbergs is Mont Niénokoué in the south-west, which reaches 396 m. These inselbergs often support an open savanna-like vegetation with grasses and deciduous trees. Otherwise, almost the entire area is covered by forest, moist evergreen in the south-west in which Diospyros spp. and Mapania spp. are typical, and moist semi-evergreen in the north and south-east; typical elements include Diospyros mannii, Parinari chrysophylla, Chrysophyllum prepulchrum and Chidlowia sanguinea. Much of the forest in the park is unlogged, mature, old-growth with emergents rising to 60 m. There is some swamp-forest in the north-west of the park and in Nzo. Average annual rainfall varies between 1,700 mm in the north to 2,200 mm in the south.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This site, because of its size and the excellent condition of the forest, continues to support the full forest avifauna and is therefore probably unique in the country, in terms of both species diversity and population sizes. For example, all the large hornbill species and Agelastes meleagrides occur in large numbers, species which have been lost or much reduced elsewhere due to hunting. At least 250 species have been recorded and this number is likely to increase somewhat once all parts have been thoroughly explored. It is possible, for example, that Malimbus ballmanni, which was described from a specimen collected north-west of the town of Taï, may yet be found to occur within the site boundaries.
Non-bird biodiversity: The flora of Taï is estimated at around 1,300 species, of which 80–150 are thought to be endemic to the Upper Guinea region. The mammal fauna is rich and includes a number of threatened species such as Pan trogolodytes verus (EN), Procolobus verus (EN), Piliocolobus badius (VU), Colobus polykomos (VU), Cercopithecus d. diana (VU), Liberiictus kuhni (EN), Anomalurus peli (EN), Loxodonta africana cyclotis (EN), Hexaprotodon l. liberiensis (VU), Hylochoerus meinertzhageniivoriensis (EN), Hyemoschus aquaticus (LR/nt), Syncerus caffer (LR/cd), Tragelaphus euryceros (LR/nt), Cephalophus maxwellii (LR/nt), C. zebra (VU), C. niger (LR/nt), C. sylvicultor (LR/nt), C.ogilbyi (LR/nt), C. dorsalis (LR/nt), C. jentinki (EN), Neotragus pygmaeus (LR/nt). Two crocodiles of conservation concern occur, Crocodylus cataphractus (DD) and Osteolaemus tetraspis (VU), as does the tortoise Kinixys homeana (DD). In all, nearly 1,000 species of vertebrate are known from the park, and there are numerous invertebrate species known only from Taï.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Initially designated a Forest Reserve in 1926 and created a National Park in 1972, Taï is a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve. All logging ceased in Taï in 1972, but large parts were never logged—logging, however, continued in Nzo Faunal Reserve until 1992. When the park was created the human population density in the surrounding area was of the order of 1 person/km2, but it has grown rapidly since with the opening up of adjacent areas to settlement following logging and, in particular, the arrival of refugees fleeing political unrest in neighbouring Liberia. Such has been the progressive clearance of forests around Taï and Nzo that they are becoming isolated. Problems that afflict the park include encroachment by farmers, logging, poaching and gold-digging; the eastern side of the park has suffered most.