Western Congo Basin Moist Forests - A Global Ecoregion

The Western Congo Basin Moist Forests are among the richest and most intact tropical forest regions in the world. They are made up of the Northwestern Congolian lowland forests and Western Congolian swamp forests.
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Forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis) play fighting. Dzanga Bai. Dzanga-Ndoki National Park, Central African Republic (CAR).
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

About the Area

The Western Congo Basin Moist Forests form part of the Congolian forest region in Central Africa, which is the second largest contiguous rain forest after the Amazon. Here, relatively intact large blocks of forest are home to many species, particularly large vertebrate populations.

Mean annual rainfall ranges from 1,400 to 2,000 mm per annum with temperatures ranging 18 to30° C. There is little seasonality, and humidity levels are normally high.

The human population in the interiors is low and typically involved with hunting and fishing activities in the forest and its rivers. The lowland forests are home to the BaAka, BaKa, BaKola, and some smaller groups of traditional forest peoples (usually referred to as pygmies); there are also Bantu cultivators who associate closely with them.
Size:
563,000 sq. km (218,500 sq. miles) 

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Republic of Congo

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species

This is the one of the richest ecoregions in Africa in terms of biodiversity, supporting many species of mammals, birds, amphibians, fishes, and swallowtail butterflies. The Northwestern Congolian Lowland Forests are one of the richest areas in the world for primates, harbouring possibly more gorillas and more chimpanzees than any other area.

Mammal species include the Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla), Crowned monkey (Cercopithecus mona pogonias), and the forest dwelling populations of African elephant (Loxodonta africana). Also found here are the Giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni), Bongo (Tragelaphus euryceros), and the Beecroft's tree hyrax (Dendrohyrax dorsalis).

Amongst the bird species found here are the Forest swallow (Hirundo fuliginosa), the River warbler (Bradypterus grandis), Bates's weaver (Ploceus batesi), and the African river martin (Pseudochelidon eurystomina). There is one near-endemic amphibian, the Yambata River Frog (Phrynobatrachus giorgii), and three near-endemic reptiles: gray chameleon (Chamaeleo chapini), Witte's beaked snake (Rhinotyphlops wittei), and Gastropholis tropidopholis.

There are an estimated 7,151 vascular plants found in Gabon, over 3,600 in the Central African Republic, 8,260 in Cameroon, and 6,000 in Congo.

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 / ©: © Martin HARVEY / WWF-Canon
Orphaned Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) reintroduced into the wild.Projet: "Protection des Gorilles", Gabon and Congo Distribution: Tropical Rainforest, Western Central Africa (Nigeria to DRC)
© © Martin HARVEY / WWF-Canon

Featured Species

Giant Forest Hog

The Giant Forest Hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni) is the largest wild member of the pig family Suidae. Males can reach as much as 2 m in length and 110 centimeters high at the shoulder and have been known to weigh as much as 225 kg.

It is mostly black in color on the surface, though hairs nearest the skin of the animal are a deep orange color. Its ears are large and pointy, and its tusks are much smaller than those of the warthog or bushpig. This nocturnal species is herbivorous and does not dig for food with its snout like other wild pigs do.

Though known to native peoples of tropical African forests for many millennia and subject in many of these cultures to various taboos and superstitions, giant forest hogs were not known to Western science until 1904.

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Threats

While the forests of this ecoregion are relatively intact, increasing logging activity and clearing for agriculture threaten them. Ravaged by commercial interests (Ivory, skins, rubber and slaves) for about 100 years, the indigenous people have been deeply affected by these events. Organized hunting of the larger species for bushmeat, elephants for ivory and meat, and gorillas for meat and fetishes threatens animal populations in the region. Closer to the Congo and Ubangui Rivers, poaching has probably already eliminated elephants.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY
Ape heads and hands for sale at fetish market Gabon, Central Africa.
© WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEY

WWF’s work

Along with governments and other conservation groups, WWF is working to protect this vast ecoregion by focusing on creating protected areas, implementing conservation policies, developing trust funds and debt swap programs to support field conservation efforts, supporting education and communication activities that provide opportunities for local people to get involved in conservation, and studying the region's large mammals like gorillas and forest elephants

In a groundbreaking agreement to protect one of the tropical forest treasures of the world, the governments of Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic agreed to cooperatively manage the Sangha River Park. This trinational park, together with other commitments made by African governments, was a major victory for WWF, its partners throughout the Congo Basin.

This cooperation is key to the long-term success of efforts to protect this globally important forest and the entire western Congo Basin moist forest ecoregion.

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