Gray countries with texture denote areas of future engagement.
Wildlife knows no boundaries. So AWF has defined areas across the continent that are critical to conservation. These Priority Landscapes can cover public and private lands alike and often cross borders.
7,237,263 hectares (27,943 sq. mi.)
Bonobo, chimpanzee, mountain gorilla, forest elephant, bongo, Congo peacock
The Congo Heartland is home to people, wildlife, and the second largest rainforest in the world.
Situated between the Lopori and Maringa Rivers, the Congo Heartland features mesmerizing scenery and wildlife. It holds the Congo Basin, home to 1,000 bird species, more than 400 fish species, three of the world’s five great apes, 10,000 species of plants, and the second-largest tropical forest in the world.
The Democratic Republic of Congo itself is recovering from years of civil war and striving to rebuild the livelihoods of its people, infrastructure, and environment.
Years of civil war and deforestation are taking its toll on both people and bonobos.
Within the Congo Heartland, years of civil unrest have virtually destroyed the infrastructure along the banks of the Congo and Maringa Rivers that allowed farmers to bring their crops to market. As the civil war in the DRC continued, impoverished farmers fled deep into the forest in search of food. This led to deforestation and an increase in the hunting and selling of bushmeat, which has reduced the number of bonobos to an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 left in the world.
Our solutions to the challenges in the Congo Heartland:
Protecting the land within the Congo Heartland
AWF is undertaking many efforts to help protect the land, including creating national reserves to conserve the tropical forest ecosystem.
In 2006, we established the landmark Lomako–Yokokala Faunal Reserve in partnership with the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), DRC’s wildlife authority. This reserve helps protect not only bonobos, but many other species. This is DRC’s first reserve to formally recognize the need for local community participation in developing a management plan.
Developing sustainable livelihoods for people within the Congo Heartland.
Many of the communities here are struggling with poverty, so improving people’s long-term livelihood is essential.
AWF created the Congo Shipping Project as a means to help. The civil war destroyed the infrastructure and the only means farmers along the banks of the Congo and Maringa Rivers had to bring their goods to market. Struggling for their own survival, they fled into the forest for food. To help farmers return to their fields—rather than stay in forests and degrade those resources—AWF initiated the return of cargo boats to the Congo and Maringa Rivers.
To help transport the farmers’ agricultural goods to DRC’s main market in Kinshasa and Mbandaka, USAID provided us with a boat and two barges that have a carrying capacity of 600 tons. The round-trip journey takes two months and stops in multiple ports collecting goods from locals to sell, providing a sustainable livelihood for many. This cargo boat also delivers vital humanitarian supplies.
Will you show those living in the Congo Heartland your support?
With your help, AWF can continue working on vital programs like helping farmers sell their crops in faraway markets or reducing deforestation in critical bonobo habitat. Donate for a cause that will help the people, their land, and wildlife conservation within the Congo Heartland.
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