Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal


Niokolo-Koba National Park is a World Heritage site in Senegal located at 12°30'-13°20'N, 12°20'-13°35'W.

Geographical Location

Lying across the border between the administrative regions of Sénégal-Oriental and La Casamance, on the River Gambia, close to the Guinea border in south-eastern Senegal. The border is defined by the international boundary with Guinea in the south-west, and the River Gambia to the south-east and north-west (12°30'-13°20'N, 12°20'-13°35'W).

Date and History of Establishment

caption Map of Senegal. (Source: University of Texas)

Created as a hunting reserve in 1926, a forest reserve in 1951, a fauna reserve on 19 April 1953, and a national park in 1954 and enlarged by Decrees of 1962, 1965, 1968 and 1969. Internationally recognized as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme and inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981.


913,000 hectares (ha).

Land Tenure



16 meters (m) to 311 m (Mont Assirik).

Physical Features

The park is a relatively flat region, with small lines of hills reaching about 200 m, separated by wide floodplains which become inundated during the rains. The whole area has superficial formations of laterite and sediments over Cambrian sandstone beds, which outcrop in places, and some metamorphic rock. The park is crossed by the River Gambia and its two tributaries, the Niokolo Koba and the Koulountou.


The climate is of a Sudanian type with a rainy season from June to October and a dry season for the rest of the year. The average annual rainfall is 1,000-1,100 millimeters (mm).


Vegetation varies from a southern Sudanian type to Guinean with savanna predominant, more luxuriant vegetation along the course of the rivers and a varying cover of trees and bushes. This vegetation changes its character according to topography and soils.In the valleys and plains there are vast areas of Vetiveria and herbaceous savannas dominated by Andropogon gayanus, occasionally associated with Panicum anabaptistum. Seasonally-flooded grassland is typically composed of Paspalum arbiculare and Echinochloa. Dry forest is made up of Sudanian species, such as Piliostigma thonningii, Pterocarpus erinaceus, Pericopsis africana, Bombax costatum, Burkea africana, Prosopis africana, Sterculia setigera, Ficus ingens and Anogeissus leiocarpus. There are also areas of bamboo Oxytenanthera abyssinica. In ravines and gallery forests species indicative of a south Guinean climate are present, with lianes very abundant, and species such as Raphia sudanica, Baissea multiflora, Nauclea latifolia, Dalbergia saxatilis, and Landolphia dulcis. On slopes and hills, rock outcrops, alluvial sands and iron pans, the vegetation is different. On the edges of rivers semi-aquatic species, such as Rotula aquatica, Hygrophila odora, Cyperus baikiei, occur and annuals, which disappear when the water level rises, are found in the periodically-flooded sands. In and around the marshes, most of which are situated in abandoned riverbeds or behind the levees, the vegetation is very variable, depending on the height of the depression, water level, origins, soil structure and sub-soil. Certain ponds are bordered by dry forests, or herbaceous savannas, with species such as Arundinella ecklonii, Eriochrysis brachypogon, Hemarthria altissima, Hyparrhenia amaena, Vetiveria nigritana, and Andropogon gayanus depending on dampness and soil compaction. Occasionally, the center of a marsh is occupied by thick thorn bushes of Mimosa pigra. Marshes on higher ground have a reduced surface area and scanty soil, very acid and peaty, and vegetation includes Oryza brachiyantha (a wild rice), Bryaspis lupulina, Adelostemma senegalense, Berchemia discolor, and Genlisea africana. On high banks Acacia nilotica, Crateva religiosa, Diospyros mespiliformis and Ziziphus mucronata are dominant, and localized species, such as Christiana africa, Cola laurifolia, Croton scarciessii, Cynometra vogelii, Diospyros elliotii, Syzygium guineense, Symmeria paniculata, and Ziziphus amphibia occur on constantly humid low banks. River bank species also include Khaya senegalensis, Erythrophleum suaveoleus, Ceiba pentandra, Detarium senegalense, Syzygium guineense, Afzelia africana, and Borassus. Some 1,500 plant species have been recorded and the listing continues.


caption Panthera pardus. (Source: Davidson College)

There are about 80 species of mammal, 330 species of bird, 36 reptiles, 20 amphibians, and 60 species of fish recorded, as well as numerous invertebrates. Carnivores include leopard Panthera pardus, lion P. leo, and wild dog Lycaon pictus (V). There are also buffalo Syncerus caffer, roan Hippotragus equinus, giant eland Taurotragus derbianus (about 1,000), Guinea baboon Papio papio, green monkey Cercopithecus aethiops sabaeus, patas monkey Erythrocebus patas, bay colobus Colobus badius temmincki, all three African crocodiles: Nile Crocodylus niloticus, slender-snouted C. cataphractus (V) and dwarf Osteolaemus tetraspis, four tortoise species, and hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius, which is present in all three large watercourses in the park. The park is the last refuge in Senegal for giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis and elephant Loxodonta africana (V). About 150 chimpanzee Pan troglodytes (V) live in the gallery forest of the park and on Mont Assirik (the north-western limit of their distribution). Birds include Denham's bustard Neotis cafra denhami, ground hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus, violet turaco Musophaga violacea, spur-winged goose Plectropterus gambensis, white-faced tree duck Dendrocygna viduata, martial eagle Polemaetus bellicosus and bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus.

Cultural Heritage

No information.

Local Human Population

No information.

Visitors and Visitor Facilities

There is a luxury hotel at Simenti, which is the most visited part of the park. There are also bungalows and an hotel at Niokolo-Koba, lodgings at Badi, and several camping grounds. Animals can be watched from hides or on guided safaris. Animals disperse in the rains, so best viewing times are from the end of October to the end of June, when most tours are organized. There is an airstrip at Simenti.

Scientific Research and Facilities

Research is regarded as important with further details within the Memoirs of the IFAN (Institut Français d'Afrique Noire) of Dakar, particularly 1956, 1961, 1969, and 1982. A detailed description of the park is given in Dupuy (1971). An elephant survey was conducted in 1981 under IUCN/WWF Project 1774.

Conservation Value

The gallery forests and savannas of Niokolo-Koba National Park protect a rich fauna, including Derby eland, chimpanzees, lions, leopards, a large population of elephants, as well as many birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Conservation Management

There is a general plan for management and restoration of natural ecosystems. Regional development plans recognize strict protection of the park. Some controlled burning is done to preserve savanna areas. In the early 1980s, WWF Project 1774 supplied a land rover and radios to combat elephant poaching. There is a buffer zone 1 kilometer (km) wide and six administrative sectors, each of which contains surveillance posts. In order to provide for the long-term security of the park, an integrated conservation and development project has been devised by the National Parks Service. The extent to which this has been implemented is not known.

Management Constraints

The numbers of leopard and elephant in the park have decreased because of poaching over a number of years and there are few, if any, leopards left. The park is threatened by dams planned for the Gambia and Niokola-Koba rivers, the creation of an artificial lake and an increase in accessibility associated with industrial exploration such as mining and quarrying. When the park was established, it was inhabited by people practicing agriculture, cattle rearing, and some hunting. Bush fires were used to control the vegetation which resulted in degraded soils, the emergence of savanna vegetation, and the disappearance of large animals in some areas. However, all inhabitants were relocated outside the park area in the early 1970s, although areas outside and within the park are still burnt. There has been a controversial proposal to upgrade a small road through the park to a major international highway from Dakar to Bamako. Following IUCN studies for the European Community, which indicated that this would have serious consequences for the site, an alternative route around the park was devised. It is not yet known which route will be chosen for the development.


Over 200 personnel directed by a conservator and assistant (undated information).


Personnel 116,570,000 francs CFA, maintenance 31,201,000 francs CFA (undated information).

IUCN Management Category

  • II (National Park)
  • Biosphere Reserve
  • Natural World Heritage Site - Criterion iv

Further Reading

  • Dekeyser, P.L. (1955). Les mammifères de l'Afrique noire française. IFAN.
  • Dekeyser, P.L. (1956). Le Parc National du Niokolo-Koba III: Mammifères. Memoires IFAN Dakar 48: 35-77.
  • Dupuy, A.R. (1969). Le Parc National du Niokolo-Koba. XXXII: Mammiferès. (deuxième note). Memoires IFAN Dakar 84: 443-460.
  • Dupuy, A.R. (ed.) (1971). Le Niokolo Koba, premier grand parc national de la République du Sénégal. Grande Imprimerie Africaine, Dakar.
  • Dupuy, A.R. (1973). Guide touristique du Parc National du Niokolo-Koba. Direction Eaux et Forets, Dakar. IUCN/WWF Project 1774. Elephant Conservation, Senegal.
  • Larivière, J. and Dupuy, A.R. (1978), Sénégal - Ses Parcs, Ses Animaux. Editions Fernand Nathan, Paris. 144 pp.
  • Le Tallec, J. (1979). La grande faune du Sénégal. ISBN: 2723604292.
  • Verschuren, J. (1976). Les Parcs Nationaux, joyaux du Sénégal. Zoo 41(4): 150-157.
  • Verschuren, J. (1983). Ecologie du Parc National du Niokolo-Koba (Senegal). Grands mammifères et remarques sur la conservation. Bulletin Institut Royal Sciences Naturelles de Belgique Biologie 55.

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.



M, U. (2008). Niokolo-Koba National Park, Senegal. Retrieved from


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