Located in northeastern Côte d’Ivoire, 30 km south of the Burkina Faso border, Comoé National Park covers about 11,500 sq km. Comoé National Park was established in 1968 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Due to its location and vast area dedicated to the conservation of natural resources, this park is an ecological unit of particular importance. Comoé National Park contains a remarkable variety of habitats, ranging from open savannas and woodland to wetland and gallery forests, normally only found much farther south (UNESCO/WHC, 2015).
In the 1970s, the Park’s natural landscapes could hardly be distinguished from the surrounding savannas and woodlands, with the exception of the northeast boundary where agriculture had already started to expand between the park and the Burkina Faso border (UNEP-WCMC, 2014). By 2014, the park boundary clearly stands out from the growing agricultural landscapes around it. Despite increasing pressure from agriculture expansion and urbanization, the park’s natural habitats have remained relatively intact. However, in 2003, Comoé National Park was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in Danger due to poaching, overgrazing by cattle, and breakdown of management owing to civil conflict (UNEP-WCMC, 2014). To reduce these problems, checkpoints and patrol posts were implemented around the park boundary, and only two zones are open for tourism. An efficient surveillance system throughout the park and the establishment of participatory management with local communities are required to diminish the pressures and impacts associated with the management of areas located on the periphery (UNESCO, 2015).
Currently, Comoé National Park is a rare sanctuary for a variety of West African species, including the Western Chimpanzee, the African wild dog, and the African elephant. It is also one of the few remaining natural areas in the region that is large enough to ensure the ecological integrity of the species that live there. Despite the clearly established and defined boundaries, additional management measures will be needed to protect the unique park ecosystems in their entirety in the long term.