The National Parks can be dangerous environments, however, most accident risks are reduced considerably with responsible behaviour and practices. Visiting researchers are responsible for their own health and safety inside the National Parks, for adhering to the Rules for Researchers (see below), to ANPN's Health and Safety Procedures, and any other site and park regulations given to them. Researchers must co-operate with ANPN and its partners and behave responsibly in order to reduce the risk of accidents or illness to themselves or to others.
Field Work Unless given specific authorisation by ANPN, all researchers will require one or more local guides to accompany them during field work. All guides must be authorised by the park’s conservator. Researchers are not permitted to go into the National Parks unaccompanied, or with unauthorised guides. All safety rules and restrictions imposed by ANPN at specific sites or for specific studies must be respected at all times by researchers.
Wild animals In the vast majority of cases, wild animals are only dangerous if people behave irresponsibly or naively, e.g. by approaching too closely, by not detecting the animal soon enough, or by disturbing the animal with aggressive or provocative behaviour. It is imperative that researchers respect park regulations and the instructions of their guide when in the presence of wild animals, particularly elephants, apes and buffalos.
Health Insurance All researchers are required to have adequate health and medical evacuation insurance for the duration of their stay in Gabon and will be asked for details. Due to the remoteness of many areas, researchers should ensure that insurance covers air evacuation from the accident site.
Medical Evacuation Researchers need to consider plans for medical evacuation in the case of a medical emergency in the field. Most national parks are in isolated areas with poor road access and no telephone network coverage, and in many cases, a medical evacuation is only possible by plane or helicopter. Researchers should discuss medical evacuation plans with their host organisation and ensure they are informed about procedures in the case of a medical emergency.
Malaria Malaria is present across the whole of Gabon and there is a significant risk of catching it at all sites. Researchers are strongly advised to take malarial prophylaxis while they are in country, and to take precautions to avoid being bitten (e.g. insect repellent, mosquito nets and long-sleeved clothing). The most common form of malaria in Gabon is P. falciparum which can be fatal if not treated correctly. It is important that researchers understand the risks associated with malaria, what the symptoms are likely to be and what medical options are available in the case of suspected malaria.
Vaccinations Yellow Fever is a compulsory vaccination for Gabon and proof is required upon entry at the airport. ANPN also requires researchers to have the following vaccinations before entering the national parks: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningococcal meningitis, measles, polio and
tetanus. Proof of negative TB test results are also recommended.
Rules for Researchers
It is important that researchers adhere to the rules set by ANPN concerning (a) health and safety and (b) responsible conduct in the field.
Before field work , all researchers need to: 1. Ensure they have a valid medical evacuation insurance that covers evacuation by helicopter or plane from the accident site. 2. Be vaccinated against Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and B, Meningococcal meningitis, Measles, Tetanus and Polio. 3. Disclose to a competent person in ANPN or their host organisation prior to commencing field work their personal details, including passport number, medical insurance policy number, insurer’s contact number and emergency next of kin contact. 4. Disclose to a competent person in ANPN or their host organisation prior to commencing field work all relevant medical details which may affect the health and safety of themselves or others, including current or recent medical conditions, medications, allergies, pregnancy and disabilities and including preventative measures being taken for malaria 5. Report any personal injury, illness or medical symptoms occurring before, during or after fieldwork as soon as possible. 6. Sign a disclaimer form declaring that they: i. are physically capable of undertaking the proposed fieldwork ii. have disclosed all relevant medical details honestly and to the best of their knowledge iii. are aware of and promise to follow health and safety regulations for the site and the park iv. are aware of the inherent risks and dangers associated with the activity and the locality v. assume all risks and take full responsibility for any accidents or illnesses that may occur.
During field work: 7. Researchers must be accompanied by an ANPN-authorised guide into the field for all field missions, unless they have received special authorisation themselves from ANPN. 8. Researchers must respect site and team security decisions at all times. 9. Researchers should stay with their guides and remain in audio-visual contact with other team members at all times. In the case of a team splitting up, sufficiently qualified personnel must be present in each team and all team members must be accounted for at all times. 10. Report any illness or physical impediment when in the field - individuals with a known illness or who feel unwell should not go into the field. 11. A minimum of 2 people should be present in each field team; no-one should do fieldwork alone. 12. Appropriate protective clothing should be worn at all times. 13. All researchers should carry a GPS, map and compass and know how to use them. 14. For camping missions, special precautions should be made. The team must: i. Take adequately trained personnel with appropriate experience including a proven knowledge of first aid, capacity to deal with a medical emergency and evacuation and the capacity to safely lead and navigate the team in unknown areas. ii. Take sufficient provisions for the number of days of camping + 2 days extra, an adequately stocked first aid kit and appropriate means of navigation and communication. iii. Identify at least one emergency contact who will be contactable by phone 24 hours a day and able to arrange a medical evacuation in an emergency. 9. Unless given specific authorisation by ANPN for research purposes, wild animals should never be provoked, frightened or deliberately disturbed, including : i. Approaching closer than either the recommended distance (see below) or flight distance ii. Disturbing nests, burrows or shelters iii. Chasing animals with vehicles (boats, cars or quad-bikes) iv. Trapping, touching, manipulating or displacing animals v. Hitting or poking animals with objects, or throwing objects vi. Provisioning animals with food vii. Maiming or killing animals
10. Only trained and authorised personnel may approach injured or sick animals. 11. Only trained and authorised personnel may trap or handle animals for the purposes of research 12. A minimum distance of 40m should normally be maintained in the presence of wild, unhabituated animals; 10m for habituated animals. 13. It is prohibited to leave rubbish, including food waste, untreated inside a protected area; rubbish should either be burned and then buried in a 50cm hole, or removed completely from the park. 14. Defecation should be avoided in the forest wherever possible; otherwise this should be buried in a 30cm deep hole at least 30m from water courses and at least 500m from habituated animals. 15. Defecation in or next to any water source (river, stream, lake, lagoon, the sea or other) is strictly prohibited at all times. 16.The use of rivers, lakes or lagoons for domestic activities (washing up, washing clothes, bathing) inside the national parks should be avoided wherever possible and limited to camping missions and temporary camp-sites.
Full details on regulations governing the National Parks, including health and safety and responsible practices and all other rules are available in ANPN’s “Reglement Interieur” and Health and Safety manual. Please contact ANPN (firstname.lastname@example.org) for copies of these documents, as well as for all scientific issues concerning the national parks.