Bétou is a town on the right bank of the Ubangi River in the Likouala Department, Republic of the Congo. Bétou is a “sous-prefecture” and has its own mayor. It is the border town with the Central African Republic, approximately 90 km from the border by road or 45 km by river. The town is linked to Bangui, the capital of CAR, by a relatively good road but suffers from very poor road access to the south of the Republic of Congo, with the vast majority of travelers arriving by river. The town has a disused air-strip. The town is dominated by a large Italian-run timber factory which is the area’s major employer.
Since late 2009, according to the UNHCR, the district of Bétou accommodates around 57,000 refugees who have fled the Dongo conflict in the Équateur Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, of whom just over 10,000 live in the town of Bétou, with the rest spread throughout small riverside villages. International organizations have established field bases in Bétou to assist the refugees.
This nirvana for nature-lovers is situated in the heart of the second-largest tropical rain forest in the world, harbouring approximately 22,000 western lowland gorillas, elusive forest elephants and approximately 444 bird species. Beneath the candescent canopy, an unparalleled level of floral diversity creates a breath-taking landscape in which some the planet’s rarest and most enigmatic species can be found.
Ivory and bush meat poaching remain a constant threat, but with over 100 eco – guards patrolling the 13,500 km² park African Parks is working to protect the park’s iconic wildlife. We have recruited, trained and deployed many new rangers to monitor the salt licks where animals congregate. This not only deters poaching but habituates wildlife to human presence, boosting the park’s tourism appeal.
By working closely with local communities and implementing innovative solutions to curb poaching, including mobile healthcare units for surrounding communities and gorilla habituation programs to increase tourism, these projects are yielding impressive results for the long-term sustainability of the park.