The Outamba-Kilimi National Park along Sierra Leone’s northwestern border with Guinea is made up of two separate units; Outamba to the east (shown above) and Kilimi to the west. Both are predominantly covered by woodland savanna with smaller areas of forest, gallery forest and open grassland. Outamba is generally more wooded than Kilimi and has more relief. Created in 1995 when hunting pressure was increasingly threatening the area’s wildlife, it was the country’s first national park.
Most of the park’s roughly 2,200 mm of rainfall falls from June to September followed by a dry season lasting from about November to April. Vegetation thrives during the rains and then much of it goes dormant during the dry season. This ready fuel makes fire a natural part of the Sudanian savanna landscape and it is fire that maintains the boundaries between the grassy savanna and the denser forest areas which stay green year round (Trollope and Trollope, 2010; Hoffman and others, 2003). Fire scars and one still-burning fire can be seen in the Landsat image which was acquired as the 2014 dry season was ending (see below).
The contrast between wet and dry seasons can be seen in the two high-resolution images. The top image (above) is from late in the dry season when savanna areas have gone dormant and fire scars are visible throughout the landscape; the image below is after the rains when all is green again and the next dry season is just beginning.
Human influence in Outamba-Kilimi is minimal with roughly 20 to 25 very small settlements (see adjacent image) within the park (Brncic, 2010). While it is a national park and welcomes visitors, motor vehicles are restricted and visitors must explore the park on foot. The relatively pristine habitat of the park supports populations of several primates including the western chimpanzee, red colobus monkey, black and white colobus monkey, olive baboons, and the sooty mangabey (STEWARD, 2012; Brncic, 2010). It is also home to a number of other large mammals including elephants, hippopotamuses, warthogs, red river hogs, leopards, African buffalo, bushbucks, bongo, duikers, gazelles and other antelope species (Brncic 2010). Bird species number over 250, including two which are of global conservation concern (Okoni-Williams and others, 2001).
The park’s natural assets may provide potential for ecotourism development. Income from tourism could potentially provide the benefits to local communities that would help build trust and support for ongoing conservation efforts (Brncic, 2010). However, the park’s remote location and the memory of Sierra Leone’s devastating civil war (1991-2002) has kept the number of visitors down.
Other potential threats to the park’s integrity include poaching and mining. Occasional poaching of elephants is a problem according to Outamba-Kilimi’s senior ranger, Dio Metzegeh. A group of poachers was arrested after several elephants were killed in 2009. Poachers also take smaller animals for bushmeat and fish illegally within the park. Artisanal mining in the streambeds within the park has also been reported (STEWARD, 2012).