Congo Basin Piedmont Rivers & Streams

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Okapi Faunal Reserve Epulu River, Ituri Forest, Democratic Republic of Congo.
© WWF-Canon / James W. THORSELL

About the Area

The Congo basin has the richest freshwater fish fauna of any African river, with 690 described fish species, of which 80% may be endemic.

The Congo River contains pockets of endemism along its path from the centre of the continent to the coast. As a result of these localised distribution patterns in forest streams, many Rivulin (Alestiidae) and Snoutfish (Mormyridae) species are naturally rare.

Rain falls nearly year-round in the Congo Basin. Between 1.5 and 2.4m (5-8 ft) of rain falls in an average year. Floodwaters flow from the northern tributaries between August and November and from the southern tributaries between May and June.
Size:
2,800,000 sq. km (1,100,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Large River Headwaters

Geographic Location:
Central Africa: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, DRC, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Sudan

Conservation Status:
Relatively Stable/Intact

Local Species

Seasonal flooding causes the river to spill from the main channel over the floodplain, into the rain forest that helps the spawning of many fish species. It also allows nutrients from the land to enter the aquatic food chain and support the Congo Basin's extremely rich diversity of fish species.

The staggering diversity of fish in this ecoregion includes, among other endemic taxa, members of the nocturnal, electric Mormyridae; catfish of the Mochokidae, Bagridae, and Clariidae families; characoids; and cichlids (Cichlidae).

The ecoregion is also home to the endemic aquatic genet (Osbornictis piscivora), giant otter shrew (Micropotamogale lamottei), Ruwenzori otter shrew (Mesopotamogale ruwenzorii) and Allen’s swamp monkey.

The snoutfishes, which are mostly active at night, use electric currents to detect prey and predators and to communicate with one another. The brain to body weight ratio of this unique fish is similar to that of humans.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Helena TELKÄNRANTA
Cichlids (Cichlidae), Lake Malawi, Malawi.
© WWF-Canon / Helena TELKÄNRANTA

Featured species

Allen’s swamp monkey (Allenopithecus nigroviridis)

The average weight of the male Allen’s swamp monkey is around 7kg, substantially larger than the female at around 3kg. It is primarily a frugivorous species, but also consumes vertebrates, roots, and invertebrates.

The average group size is around 40 individuals. Groups will split up into subgroups of 2 to 6 individuals to forage for food. Sleeping sites for this species are usually located near water and the same sites are used repeatedly. Allen's swamp monkey is a semi-terrestrial and a diurnal species. This species will dive into the water when a predator is detected, and its slightly webbed feet help make it a good swimmer. It moves through the forest in a quadrupedal manner.

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Threats

Growing urban centres and the resultant untreated sewage disposal, logging operations, industrial-scale mining, and other sources of pollution negatively affect downstream freshwater systems. Sedimentation and erosion also occur near logging operations.

WWF’s work

From its Central Africa Regional Programme Office (CARPO) in Yaoundé, Cameroon, WWF coordinates conservation work in the Central African sub-region for 6 countries: Cameroon, Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea and the Central African Republic (CAR).

The Eastern Africa Regional Programme Office (EARPO), based in Nairobi (Kenya), manages 3 key areas in the eastern part of the Congo River Basin: Itombwe, Kahuzi-Biega and Virunga.

Major developments such as the US government's US$53 million Congo Basin Forest Partnership and millions of acres of new protected areas can be traced to the 1999 WWF-organized Yaounde Summit.

WWF and partners help create protected areas and lead conservation work in 7 of the priority landscapes in the forests of the Congo River Basin, with funding from the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. WWF is working with logging companies to halt wildlife poaching and to reduce deforestation.

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