Central African Republic becomes newest GBIF Voting Participant

Increased commitment aims to improve data access, knowledge and understanding of country's threatened ecosystems

Forest elephants in the Dzanga Sangha Reserve, Central African Republic
Forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in the Dzanga Sangha Reserve, Central African Republic. Photo by Peter Prokosch via GRID Arendal, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Central African Republic (CAR) has become Africa's 11th voting Participant and the 41st country to claim its full rights and privileges as a member of the GBIF governing board.

The national node responsible for coordinating in-country activities, GBIF Centrafrique, is based in the Botany Department of CERPHAMETA (Center for Studies and Research in Traditional Pharmacology in Africa; in French, Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur la Pharmacopée et la Médecine Traditionnelle Africaine) in the capital city's University of Bangui.

A landlocked nation in the continent's interior that became independent in 1960, CAR is home to 21 species listed as endangered or critically endangered by the IUCN Red List, including important populations of forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla subsp. gorilla). The biodiversity of its savannah, Sahel, forest and wetland ecosystems remain inadequately documented, and most face ongoing pressure from human activities like habitat destruction, mining and poaching. The country's ongoing civil conflicts since 2003 have also caused damage to its human communities, amplifying and combining with other pressures to threaten CAR's status as one of the world's last great refuges for wildlife, even in its 12 protected areas, which representing 9.2 per cent of the national territory.

"The mission of GBIF Centrafrique is to publish national data on the country’s biodiversity to complement those already registered by the GBIF network and to facilitate free and open access to data," said Denis Beina, node manager of GBIF Centrafrique. "Our key users include policymakers within the Ministries in charge of biodiversity management and the environment, as well as teachers, researchers and students, especially those in the emerging degree programme at the University of Bangui. Establishing a national portal for GBIF Centrafrique will quickly become an essential tool for biodiversity research in the Central African Republic."

Users of GBIF.org can presently access more than 63,000 records relating to over 5,500 species collected or observed in CAR, published by institutions in other countries. The data publishers currently contributing the most data relating to CAR are Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris, the Missouri Botanical Garden , the Netherlands' Naturalis Biodiversity Center, and the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town.

“We greatly appreciate the commitment shown by Central African Republic in becoming a full member of GBIF, despite the great challenges the country has faced in recent years,” said Tim Hirsch, Deputy Director of the GBIF Secretariat. “We are confident this commitment will be repaid by enabling researchers to access more data and thus improve understanding of the poorly documented biodiversity of CAR’s diverse ecosystems.”