Monday, June 9, 2008

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Taï National Park

Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire
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Taï National Park, N'Zo Partial Faunal Reserve, and the Goin-Débé and Cavally Forest Reserves, are remnants of tropical rain forests that at one time stretched from Ghana to Sierra Leone. Taï National Park, the most pristine and heavily protected of these, contains some 1 300 plant species, over half of which are unique to the region's rain forests. Taï is also home to most of the large mammals that occur in the area, including the leopard (Panthera pardus), which is critically endangered.

The park was declared a forest and wildlife refuge in 1926 and more recently a National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and a World Heritage Site. This area was historically remote and sparsely populated; however, roads built in the late 1960s brought periods of population influx. That population has converted most of the forest outside the protected areas to agricultural land, leaving only scattered fragments of forest. Much of this deforestation had already occurred before these images were taken; however several further areas of forest loss can be seen between 1988 and 2002 (yellow arrows).

While deforestation continues outside the protected areas, the Government of Côte d'Ivoire has maintained the Taï National Park's integrity and its core area remains in relatively good condition. The current concern within the park is commercial poaching, putting at risk all fauna, but duikers and primates in particular. Also, as these images make clear, the boundaries of the park are under increasing pressure from a growing population that is running out of unprotected land to farm.
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