Gola Forests

Country/territory: Sierra Leone

IBA criteria met: A1, A2, A3 (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria, please click here

Area: 76,100 ha

Conservation Society of Sierra Leone
IBA conservation status
Year of assessment (most recent) State (condition) Pressure (threat) Response (action)
2013 not assessed medium high
For more information about IBA monitoring, please click here

Site description (2001 baseline)
Gola Forest Reserve is the largest area of Upper Guinea rainforest in Sierra Leone. It occupies the south-eastern edge of the country and is divided into four sections: Gola North (45,800 ha), Gola East (22,800 ha) and Gola West (6,200 ha) are Forest Reserves, while Tiwai Island (1,300 ha) is a Game Sanctuary. Tiwai Island is situated in the Moa river, 10 km north-west of Gola West. Gola West and East are contiguous, separated only by the Mahoi river and a road, while Gola North lies about 5 km north-east of Gola East. Gola North is fairly hilly, with most land lying above 300 m and the highest point at 475 m. The main river draining Gola North is the Mogbai, and its catchment spans the centre of the reserve. This river discharges into the Mano river, which runs along the border with the Republic of Liberia. Gola East, Gola West and Tiwai are low-lying with swampy areas and a few hills. Bagra hill (150 m) is the highest point in Gola East. Dominant canopy tree species include Heritiera utilis and Cryptosepalum tetraphyllum with Erythrophleum ivorescens, Lophira alata, Brachystegia leonensis and Didelotia idae occurring in the lower strata. Canopy height is mainly between 30–35 m, with emergents reaching 50–55 m.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. To date, 274 species have been recorded, including 14 species of global conservation concern. Six of these have not, so far, been recorded elsewhere in Sierra Leone. The reserve holds the largest number of nesting sites of Picathartes gymnocephalus in the country (36 nesting sites, comprising 204 active nests). Groups of up to 12 Agelastes meleagrides have been recorded. The forest holds nearly 90% of Sierra Leone’s species of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome.

Non-bird biodiversity: Gola Forest supports significant populations of the following primates: Pan troglodytes verus (EN), Procolobus badius (VU), Colobus polykomus (LR/nt), Cercocebus atys (LR/nt) and Cercopithecus diana (VU). It is also a refuge for other large mammals, including Loxodonta africana cyclotes (EN), Cephalophus zebra (VU), C. jentinki (VU), C. maxwelli (LR/nt), C. niger (LR/nt), Hexoprotodon liberiensis (VU) and Hyemoschus aquaticus (LR/nt).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Area factsheet: Gola Forests. Downloaded from on 01/12/2023.