Odzala National Park is a national park in the Cuvette-Ouest Region of the Republic of the Congo. Founded in 1935, the park now covers 13,600 km2. It is known as "one of the most important strongholds for forest elephant and western gorilla conservation remaining in Central Africa". As of 1996, the entire area of the reserve is found within the catchment area of the Mambili River, which drains the area towards the south. The region is quite varied due to the juxtaposition of several habitat types, including savannah, forest and rivers. The site is astride the savannah-forest boundary of North-Central Congo, allowing for a high biodiversity of flora and fauna, with species from forest, savannah and riverine forest. The area is densely forested in the northwest; towards the south and east the forest becomes more open with an understory of Marantaceae carpeting the ground. In the south of the region an extensive forest-savannah mosaic is found, including gallery forests and dry and swamp savannah. The savannas have a low biodiversity, both in terms of plants and mammals. The mammal species that are truly savannicole or species of edge habitat include Grimm’s' duiker, bushbuck, and spotted hyena, although the latter seems to have found a niche in the forest near marshy clearings in Odzala. Forest buffalo are found in large troops in the savannah, whereas they are normally found in small groups of up to 12 in forest. The savannas are being recolonized by forest, both from the existing forest edge and from small thickets originating on termite mounds within the savannah itself. Until the late 1990s, lions lived in the park and the savannahs to the south, but now seem to have gone - not only from here but from the whole of the Bateke Plateau, where they were once not uncommon. Within the forest bloc, swampy forest clearings provide abundant digestible forage for herbivores such as gorillas, buffalo, sitatunga and Giant Forest Hog. In addition, some of these clearings have salt-rich soils, which attract elephants as well as other mammals. These clearings are probably maintained by the action of the larger herbivores, and provide the rare opportunity of observing forest species which are normally extremely difficult to see. Density estimates of apes and elephants have been calculated from the park. Comparison of these results and of data obtained elsewhere using the same methodology shows that Odzala has high densities of both of these species; the open canopy Marantaceae forests have a particularly high gorilla density, and closed canopy Marantaceae forests have a high chimp density.
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