Northeastern Congo Basin Moist Forests - A Global Ecoregion

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Typical grassland habitat, Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo.
© WWF-Canon / John E. NEWBY

About the Area

The Northeastern Congo Basin Moist Forests are located in the northeastern portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) extending into the Southeastern portion of the Central African Republic (CAR).

Part of an ancient drainage basin influenced by climate desiccation events during recent Ice Ages, the lowland forests of this ecoregion contain a rich assortment of endemic species. The ecoregion lies within the humid tropics with rainfall averaging between 1,500 mm and 2,000 mm per annum.

The Ituri forests are of particular significance because they are home of the Mbuti pygmies, one of the hunter-gatherer peoples living in equatorial rainforests characterized by their short height (below 1.5 m, or 59 inches, on average). Also worth mentioning are the lowland forests of the Itombwe Mountains to the South.

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Size:
533,500 sq. km (206,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Central Africa - CAR, DRC

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species

The ecoregion is home to a diverse array of mammals, including such species as L'hoest i'sguenon (Cercopitheus l'hoesti), Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), Angolan black-and-white colobus (Colobus angolensis), Okapi (Okapia johnstoni), and Brush-tailed porcupines (Atherurus africanus).

Endemic mammals include Piliocolobus oustaleti, Dent's guenon (Cercopithecus monadenti), Aquatic genet (Osbornictis piscivora), and Giant forest genet (Genetta victoriae).

Two birds - Bedford's paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone bedfordi) and Turner's eremomela (Eremomelaturneri) are restricted to these forests. More characteristic species include the Lesser striped-swallow (Hirundo abyssinica) and Green-backed woodpecker (Campethera cailliauti).

The flora is diverse and has high levels of endemism. Around 1500 species of plants are known from the Ituri forests alone.
L'Hoest's monkey (<i>Cercopithecus lhoesti</i>) - A conservation priority among the ... / ©: WWF-Canon / PJ STEPHENSON
L'Hoest's monkey (Cercopithecus lhoesti), Okapi Faunal Reserve, Ituri Forest, DRC.
© WWF-Canon / PJ STEPHENSON

Featured Species

The Aquatic Genet (Osbornictis piscivora ) is a carnivore mammal from northeast Zaire, related to civets and linsangs. Unlike other genets, which have handsomely spotted coats and ringed tails, the Aquatic Genet has a plain, rusty-colored coat, and a black tail, with white spots behind its eyes. It feeds primarily on fish, which it attracts by tapping the surface of the water of rainforest streams. Its paws are hairless, an adaptation for catching fish. Despite its diet, and common name, it is not a good swimmer.

Like most members of its family, it is a secretive and rarely seen species, and little is known about its behavior in the wild.

Threats

Hunting of animals for food and for medicinal values increasingly threatens ecosystem dynamics. Conversion of forest for agriculture and mining for gold constitute other threats. Mining has already seriously impacted many important forest areas, such as Ituri and the Kahuzi Biega lowlands (in the latter there are close to 15,000 miners). Political unrest in the region has led to widespread migrations of refugees which has triggered large-scale clearing of forest areas for subsistence agriculture

In the central part of the ecoregion there are lesser threats, since there are fewer people and those that live there (mainly pygmies), support themselves in ways that preserve the forest vegetation.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey
Park guards patrolling on the boundary of Virunga National Park, DRC.
© WWF-Canon / Martin Harvey

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, DRC, Equatorial Guinea and the CAR WWF is involved in a number of active conservation projects in the CAR and DRC.

One of WWF's main objectives in the region is to improve local livelihood through the sustainable management and use of natural resources by safeguarding natural forests and restoring forest functions. This has lead to the creation of 'The Central Africa Forests and Poverty Alleviation Programme (CAFPAP)' - developed within the framework of the Natural Livelihood Resources and Poverty Alleviation (NLRPA) programme. This is a joint effort of the Committee for IUCN-Netherlands, WWF-Netherlands and Friends of the Earth-Netherlands.

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