Gray countries with texture denote areas of future engagement.

Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to three of the world’s great apes — and they are facing extinction.

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Democratic Republic of Congo

Land

  • Quick Facts:

    Area

    234,485,800 hectares (2,344,858 sq. km.) (905,355 sq. mi.)

  • Key Landmarks

    1. Zongo Falls
    2. Nyiragongo Volcano
    3. Congo river
    4. Lake Kivu
    5. Lake Tanganyika
    6. Congo River
    7. Lake Kivu
    8. Lake Tanganyika
  • Animals

    Mountain gorilla, bonobo, chimpanzee, elephant, okapi, white rhino, forest elephant, pangolin

  • Primary Ecosystems

    Tropical and subtropical grassland, savanna, shrubland, tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forest.

  • Population

    81,339,988 (2017)

    Tags: DRC, Bonobo, Chimpanzee, Elephant, Forest Elephant, Mountain Gorilla, Pangolin, Rhinoceros, Bili-Uele, Congo, Virunga

Gallery
  • Bonobo Cyril Ruoso
  • Bonobo Craig R. Sholley
  • Bonobo Craig R. Sholley
  • Bonobo John Watkins ICCE
  • Mountain Gorilla Craig R Sholley
  • Mountain Gorilla Craig R. Sholley
  • Mountain gorilla Craig R. Sholley
  • Mountain Gorilla IGCP
  • Bongo Daryl and Sharna Balfour
Overview

There are parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo that does not make the news.

In spite of a  history of political instability, the Democratic Republic of Congo is an ecological paradise.

Located in Central Africa, DRC is one of the most important countries in Africa for biodiversity conservation. More than 81 million people live here — as do a number of spectacular endemic species like the okapi, Grauer’s gorilla, bonobo, and Congo peacock along with over 400 other species of mammals, over 1,000 bird species, more than 400 fish species, and over 10,000 species of plants.

What’s more, the country is home to the world’s second-largest tropical forest and river basin (the Congo Basin) and features high plateaus, three mountain ranges, and low coastal plains.

Challenges

Conservation in a conflict zone.

Civil war took its toll on innocent people and wildlife. As the M23 rebellion spreads unrest, not only are people and communities still struggling to rebuild their livelihoods and infrastructure but iconic species are inching closer to extinction.

Ongoing instability, poor infrastructure, and a struggling economy have led to many residents hunting species for bush meat in surrounding forests, threatening many of the DRC’s endemic species.

Poaching and wildlife trafficking threaten the last remaining populations of iconic species.

Organized poaching and wildlife trafficking by armed units are severely threatening the survival of some of the most iconic and threatened species in DRC, like the endangered bonobo.

This great ape is predicted to lose over 50 percent of its population by 2078, due to illegal bush meat hunting and habitat fragmentation — their slow reproductive cycle puts them at risk of being decimated if poaching continues unabated.

DRC is also a stronghold to the critically endangered Grauer’s gorilla whose populations have declined 70 percent in 20 years, most notably due to poaching for bush meat.

It is also home to the biggest population of eastern chimpanzees and more than 1,000 forest elephants. All of which are under immense threat because of poaching and habitat loss.

Not only do rangers have to protect wildlife from poachers but also from armed rebel groups. The groups attack villages in close proximity to the Bili-Uele Protected Area Complex, leaving wildlife caught in the crosshairs.

Unsustainable resource management is killing the world’s second-largest rainforest.

Deforestation remains an ongoing problem in the DRC. Slash-and-burn agriculture has destroyed many hectares of land, and many farmers lack the necessary education to employ sustainable agricultural practices.

Due to the remote nature of the country, primary school enrollment is 15 to 30 percent lower in rural areas than in urban areas. Education plays an instrumental role in empowering the future conservationists of Africa.

 

Solutions

Our solutions to protecting DRC's unique biodiversity:

  • Establishing protected areas to conserve DRC’s biodiversity.

    Unsustainable land use, human encroachment, and logging are resulting in habitat loss and posing one of the greatest threat to wildlife in DRC.

    By establishing protected areas like national parks and reserves, we can reverse this trend.

    In 2006, AWF helped establish the Lomako-Yokokala Faunal Reserve as a protected area. Since supporting and enhancing the reserve’s management and security, bonobo population densities have been steadily increasing from 3.2 bonobos per 100 sq. km. in 2012 to 5 bonobos per 100 sq. km. by the end of 2015.

    The nearby community, Iyondji, saw the success and economic benefits the reserve brought to the community and requested help to establish another protected area in which bonobos can live free of external threat — thus establishing the Iyondji Bonobo Community Reserve, a 1,100 sq. km. protected area and a significant stronghold for bonobos that will also help protect the forest elephant, Congo peacock, giant pangolin, and other wildlife.

  • Effective ranger patrols combat wildlife poaching.

    The Bili-Uele Protected Area Complex in northeastern DRC is comprised of four protected areas totaling more than 40,000 sq. km.  This vast protected area faces unique security challenges and benefits significantly from efforts to continuously enhance the effectiveness and reach of habitat protection and improved anti-poaching operations.

    With support from the European Union, African Wildlife Foundation worked closely with the Congolese Institute of Nature Conservation (known as ICCN) to establish a ranger base in the Bili-Mbomu forest, located within the Bili-Uele complex.

    This initiative consolidated ICCN’s on-the-ground presence in areas where the authority has not been able to operate for years. These efforts generated new data on wildlife and conservation threats ensuring previously unprotected areas are now actively managed and protected.

    With support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, AWF and ICCN worked in partnership with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a local security firm to establish a management presence in Bili-Uele to keep rangers safe and to ultimately better protect wildlife and local communities.

    Increased patrols in key sectors of Bili-Uele are making wildlife authority’s presence felt. About a year into the anti-poaching strategy, patrols have begun to see a decline in human-wildlife conflict, snares, and ammunition cartridges.

  • Promoting sustainable livelihood alternatives to empower communities.

    Maringa-Lopori-Wamba (MLW) Forest Landscape, located in the Equateur Province of DRC, is one of the poorest, least developed, and most remote areas of DRC — but also one of the country’s richest landscapes in terms of biological diversity.

    AWF, with support from the United States Agency for International Development’s USAID Central African Regional Program for the Environment, is improving community well-being within the MLW landscape by providing economically and environmentally sustainable livelihood strategies, which minimize forest degradation and fragmentation. Central to achieving this goal is providing incentives for enhanced agroforestry and agricultural productivity on converted lands and developing a sustainable land-use plan for landscape management

  • Improved education opportunities provide a bright future for people and wildlife.

    The Ilima community, located in the Equator Province is one of the most isolated in the world and, like many rural areas, lacked the resources needed for a high-quality school. The Ilima community school rarely attracted the best teachers, and the building had fallen into disrepair.

    Under the umbrella of AWF’s Classroom Africa initiative, we partnered with the Ilima community to build a new, sustainable school in exchange for the community’s commitment to conservation. To attract the highest quality teachers to this remote school, AWF constructed teacher housing and developed teacher training materials on environmental and conservation education to educate children at a young age about the benefits of conservation.

    AWF is ensuring Ilima’s youngest community members receive an education that will equip them with the tools and resources to pursue livelihoods that not only empower them for future success but also do not harm the environment.

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