Central Congo Basin Moist Forests - A Global Ecoregion

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Forest canopy in the Congo Basin rainforest. Central African Republic (CAR)
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of these terrestrial ecoregions: Eastern Congolian swamp forests; Central Congolian lowland forests. Together with the Northwestern Congolian lowland forests, they comprise the Earth's second largest contiguous rain forest after the Amazon.

This ecoregion lies in the centre of the Congo Basin, surrounded by the Congo River. Erosion over thousands of years has helped to shape the region's topography. The name "Congo" (meaning "hunter") is coined after the Bakongo ethnic group, living in the Congo river basin.

The central part of the Congo River Basin and the foothills of the mountain range that borders the Albertine Rift receive a lot of rainfall (2,000-3,000 mm/year). A critical feature of the Congo River Basin forests is that they generate between 75% and 95% of their own rainfall - the remainder originates from outside the basin.

Although swamp and primary forests dominate, there is a mix of vegetation types, including swamp forests, seasonally flooded forests, lowland rain forests, and forest-grassland mosaics.

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Size:
507,500 sq. km (196,000 sq. miles) 

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Central Africa: Democratic Republic of Congo

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact

Local Species

A large number of mammals roam the forests including both species of chimpanzee: the Common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the bonobo (Pan paniscus) or the Pygmy Chimpanzee, Mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei), Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), Allen's swamp monkey (Allenopithecus nigroviridis), African golden cat (Felis aurata), Beecroft's tree hyrax (Dendrohyrax dorsalis), the Giant pangolin (Manis gigantea), and the White rhino (Ceratotherium simum).

There are remnant populations of ancient plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. Amongst the plant species found here are the Camwood tree (Baphia spp.), and Ground orchid (Eulophia porphyroglossa).

In addition, there are numerous bird species including the Congo weaver (Euplectes anomala), Congo sunbird (Nectarinia congensis), Bates's paradise fly-catcher (Terpsiphone batesi), Green-backed camaroptera (Camaroptera brachyura), and the endemic Brown nightjar (Caprimulgus binotatus). 
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Russell A. MITTERMEIER
Pygmy chimpanzee (Pan paniscus) or Bonobo.
© WWF-Canon / Russell A. MITTERMEIER

Featured Species

Giant Pangolin

The Giant Pangolin (Manis gigantea) is the largest species of pangolin, or "scaly anteaters"- the large, scaled nocturnal mammals belonging to the Manidae family. The giant pangolin has the largest concentrations in Uganda, Tanzania, and western Kenya. It is found mainly in the savannas, rainforests, and forests, inhabiting areas with large termite populations and available water. Giant pangolins do not inhabit high-altitude areas.

The species has large, armored scales and no hair except for the eyelashes. Giant pangolins have long snouts, a long and thick tail, large front claws, and a strong sense of smell. By using its tail for balance, giant pangolins will often walk upright as a biped!

Factors such as habitat destruction, deforestation, and bushmeat hunting have caused a significant decline in the species’ numbers.

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Threats

Thick vegetation, high water, and hordes of mosquitoes meant until recently, the region was sparsely populated and relatively intact. However, there are no protected areas within the ecoregion and whatever little area, that has been converted generally occurs along rivers that serve to be the only means of access.

Over the past century or so, the DRC has developed into the center of what has been called the Central African "bushmeat" problem, which is regarded by many as a major environmental, as well as, socio-economic crisis. "Bushmeat" is another word for the meat of wild animals. It is typically obtained through trapping, usually with wire snares, or otherwise with shotguns or arms originally intended for use in the DRC's numerous military conflicts.

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