Authorities hope the protection efforts will help the park get listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Concerned about illegal logging and pollution in the Banco National Park in Abidjan, the commercial capital of the Ivory Coast, authorities are erecting a concrete perimeter wall which they hope will preserve its distinctive ecosystem.
Banco extends over 34 square kilometers (13 square miles) west of Abidjan, making it the second largest urban park in the world, behind Tijuca National Park in Rio de Janeiro.
Some of its wildlife, which includes monkeys, chimpanzees and 500-year-old trees, is considered sacred by locals, and its trails are a paradise for hikers and cyclists, far from the crowded streets of the city of 5 million inhabitants.
But Banco is threatened by the pressures of Abidjan’s rapid growth.
Residents are illegally felling trees to build homes and dumping their waste in the woods, officials say. Park officials hope to put an end to this.
“In reality, it is 12 km of fences for a perimeter of 24 km because a large part of the border has already been reduced here and there to build urban lots,” Adama Tondossama, managing director of the agency, told Reuters. the Ivorian Office of Parks and Reserves. Press Agency.
Tondossama said he hopes efforts to protect Banco will help him earn a spot on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.
Banco’s groundwater supplies 40% of Abidjan’s drinking water and captures 90,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Park authorities have worked with local communities to avoid any misunderstandings related to the wall and to emphasize the importance of protecting the forest.
“We must not lose the forest,” said Mesmin Yapo, the deputy chief of a village on the outskirts of the park. “We’re sort of the guardians here.”