The Ehotilé Islands National Park is a group of 6 islands (Assokomonobaha, Balouaté, Meha, Nyamouan, Elouamin and the sacred island Bosson Assoun) located in the estuarine domain on the eastern coast of the Ivory Coast. This archipelago covers an area of 550 ha, not counting the countless channels and other arms of the lagoon that border it. According to the marine influence, the Ehotilé islands can be subdivided into two parts:
- the first part includes the islands Assokomonobaha (or Assoko), Balouhaté, Elouamin, Meha and Nyamouan. These 5 islands are located in a strictly estuarine area and together with three other islands form a true delta just before the mouth of the Aby lagoon complex.
- the second part consists of Bosson Assoun Island. It is located in an oligo-haline zone, between the Ebrié and Tendo lagoons, about 2 km off M'braty.
The ABY lagoon from which these islands emerge is one of the largest lagoon water bodies in the country. It receives continental water from several rivers, the most important of which are the Bia to the north and the Tanoé to the east.
The park is subject to the subequatorial coastal climate marked by an average annual temperature of 26.4OC, high humidity (80%), and practically zero thermal amplitude. The average annual rainfall varies from 1800 to 2000 mm and is divided between two rainy seasons interspersed by two dry seasons. The relief of the area is very little contrasted with generally hydromorphic soils on quaternary sands or young on marine sands, within places, significant accumulations of peat. In the elevated areas, the soils are sandy or sandy-clay to muddy.
The vegetation of the islands belongs to the Littoral Sector of the Guinean Domain. In this sector, the diversity of edaphic conditions and their evolution means that on a small surface, there is a great complexity of plant groups. There is therefore no dominant climax, but a mosaic of edaphic groupings. However, at first glance, the vegetation consists mainly of mangroves (40%) on the edge of the islands and forests in the center with often very dense undergrowth.
The fauna of the park is diverse. Indeed, the mangrove creates an essential nutrient system for the reproduction of many species, both aquatic and avian. Like all coastal wetlands, the Ehotilé Islands National Park is home to remarkable birdlife. It has been counted 128 species of birds divided into 35 families. These are, for the most part, aquatic species, the number of which was estimated at 2,583 in 2001. In addition to water species, there are migratory species in the dry season.
It should be noted that the park is also home to mammals traditionally dependent on the forest such as duikers, bush pigs, rodents, etc. In addition to these animals, the Park is home to two species that give it its originality:
- The bat: a large colony of these Megachiroptera of the species Heidolon helvurn or fruit bats of the palm trees, lodges on Balouaté Island. For local populations, these animals are a sign of the presence of missing relatives. They, therefore, occupy great importance in the life of these people.
- The manatee: is an aquatic mammal very representative of the Ivorian lagoons, but today strongly threatened with extinction.
For all these riches, the Ehotilé Islands were classified as a Ramsar Site (site n01584) on October 18, 2005.
The Aby lagoon is bordered by the Ehotilé, Adounvlè, and Essouma townships. Of these three cantons, only the Ehotilé and the Essouma claim the “paternity” of the islands in the park. The capital of the canton, the seat of the Ehotilé chiefdom is Etueboué, while Assinie is home to the Essouma chiefdom. The population bordering the park, divided between 21 villages, is officially estimated at 32,103 inhabitants, or 32% of the total population of the department.
Fishing is the main activity of the indigenous riverside populations of the park. They practice, for centuries, collective fishing in different forms. Fishing activity is practiced by both men and women. The men are in charge of the fishing, the supply of firewood (mainly mangrove wood) and the women take care of the smoking.