The elephant tower
Several days hike from the nearest logging road, accessing the northern forest clearings of Nouabale-Ndoki National Park is a big challenge. But it might be worth the effort. The largest clearing, or ‘bai’, is known as Bonye and it offers one of the most untouched places to view wildlife in Central Africa. Remotely situated, Bonye bai provides an important refuge to the northern Congo’s most iconic fauna.
Bais have long intrigued ecologists. They are characterised by deep saline pits which provide mammals with a rich source of minerals and an open arena for building and maintaining social bonds. For species usually hidden in dense understory, these clearings provide the ideal space for researchers to observe shy and elusive forest wildlife. Unfortunately, these clearings have a history of attracting poachers too. Nowadays, amidst the ivory crisis, forest elephants are particularly vulnerable.
In 2015, WCS researchers began collecting information on Bonye’s elephants and other animals visiting the bai. Only several miles from a notorious international border, the wildlife in and around Bonye is increasingly vulnerable to poaching. This February, the team constructed a platform at the bai to provide researchers with an elevated, unobscured view of elephants visiting the forest clearing. From the platform, researchers will track individual elephants as well as monitor the health of the population as a whole. This information combined with on-the-ground reconnaissance missions will help to guide the Park’s anti-poaching efforts. It is hoped that the increased presence of researchers in this remote area will also act as a crucial deterrent for potential poachers.