Dispute leads to closure of sites in Loango National Park


A buffalo on the beach in Loango National Park (Africa's Eden)

A company that operates major tourism and conservation projects in Gabon's Loango National Park has suspended visits to the area.

A dispute between the company, Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD), which runs the projects as Africa's Eden, and Gabon's interim government has been blamed for the decision.

Loango National Park is home to gorillas, chimpanzees, the endangered forest elephant and the so-called ‘surfing' hippos. The park, covering some 1,550 sq km, was created in 2002 when the Iguéla and Petit Loango Reserves were merged. The area is a unique mixture of forest, savannah, lagoon and ocean.

SCD began developing tourism in the park in 2001 and its operations have expanded to include an airline service from the capital, Libreville, to Omboué.

It's the airline that's caused the dispute with the government. The political situation in Gabon is in a state of flux following the sudden death of President Omar Bongo in June.

SCD claims the new interim government has now reneged on agreements concerning the airline, resulting in the cessation of its air services and putting a stop to tourist transport into the park.

SCD says its operations in Loango will be closed to travellers until 20 September at least.

However, the company says its conservation programmes will continue. Although our tourism operations will be suspended, we will continue making every effort to ensure there is no negative impact on our conservation projects in and around Loango National Park, Catherine Eviter, spokesperson for SCD, said.

Gabon goes to the polls on 30 August to elect a new president.