Protection of the Saala Complex
National NGO Guinee Ecologie is working with communities, the government and project COMBO to extend the limits and increase the protected status of this site.
Not only is protection of forests in the Fouta Djallon important for protection of chimpanzees, but it is also critically important for people. The Fouta is considered the “watershed” for West Africa, as it is the source of many of the major rivers of the west Africa region. There is a forest that is situated in the heart of the Fouta Djallon called the Saala forest. This site is of outstanding beauty with tropical forest, savanna and large cascading waterfall, and rapids. The Chutes de Saala lies only 30 km west of Labé one the largest towns in the Fouta Djallon, and therefore has great potential for ecotourism.
The national NGO Guinée Écologie, has been working in Guinea since 1989. For the past four years (from 2014-2017) with funding from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Microfinance Fund and the ARCUS Foundation, Guinée Écologie identified 60 sites throughout the Fouta Djallon where chimpanzees are still living. Saala was one of these sites, and is one of ten pilot sites where Guinée Écologie has been collaborating with local communities to create local nature conservation associations (called NMAs). These NMAs are officially recognized and registered under Guinean law in each jurisdiction where they are located. Members of the NMA have worked closely with the forest service to identify specific threats to the chimpanzees, and in cooperation to improve forest and wildlife protection and monitoring in each area of the ten areas.
Guinea has one of the smallest protected areas in West Africa in terms of both size and number of protected areas IUCN category 1-IV. The government has recently created a new protected area called the Bafing National Park, and is interested in further expanding its protected area network. Saala would be an important area for increased protection, especially given the urban expansion of nearby towns such as Labé. Not only would this be an important site for a national park, but also a World Heritage Site as it contains threatened species of universal value (Criterion X). Given the local cultural beliefs in protecting chimpanzees, it is also an outstanding example of “human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change” (Criteria V), and is associated with living traditions, beliefs of outstanding universal significance (Criteria VI).
Now, with funding from the Primate Action Fund, Guinée Écologie is working to increase the protected area status of the Saala ecosystem, to ensure the effective management of this area for conservation of chimpanzees and their habitat.