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A haven for chimps

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Bili Uele


  • Quick Facts:


    14,017,450 hectares (54,122 sq. mi.)

  • Key Landmarks

    1. Bili Uele Protected Area Complex
    2. Congo River (nearby)


The Bili-Uele Protected Area Complex is located in the remote north of the Democratic Republic of Congo, along the border of the Central African Republic. The region consists of savanna mosaic north of the Uele River and lowland primary forest to the south, both of which support high levels of biodiversity.

In 2012, an AWF-supported survey revealed that Bili Uele is home to as many as 65,000 eastern chimpanzee—the largest population in all of Africa. Additionally, over 1,000 endangered forest elephants inhabit the area.

Tags: DRC, West/Central Africa


Extraction is putting the ecosystem in jeopardy.

Due to its extreme remoteness, Bili Uele had previously been largely spared from anthropogenic threats. However, it is now experiencing growing levels of artisanal mining, timber extraction, and bushmeat hunting and trade. At the same time, Mbororo pastoralists from the north—along with poachers—are freely entering the protected area complex. Given these new threats to the ecosystem, Bili Uele will not remain a haven for biodiversity for long without proper conservation intervention.

Insecurity and poor infrastructure impede conservation efforts.

Unfortunately, DRC’s wildlife authority, Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), has struggled to effectively protect and manage this landscape. A lack of resources and difficulty accessing the region have both posed significant challenges. Further complicating matters is the presence of small groups of Lord’s Resistance Army and other rebels, creating real danger for those in the area.


Our solutions to the challenges in the Bili-Uele Protected Area Complex:

  • Extend the hand of law enforcement to protected areas.

    AWF is working with ICCN to establish their presence in the landscape and boost the capacity of ICCN rangers to effectively monitor biodiversity and enforce wildlife laws. This includes training in anti-poaching techniques, accurately recording data in the field through SMART technology, and analyzing this data to better inform future patrols. Equipment essential to the ranger’s daily patrols is also being provided.

  • Ensure rangers are prepped for a precarious environment.

    Considering the level of insecurity in the area, AWF has partnered with Maisha Consulting, a company with experience in protected area protection in war or semi-war zones. In February of 2015, AWF and Maisha personnel traveled to Bili Uele to meet with authorities and local communities and identify a permanent field office where both AWF and ICCN staff are now based.

    To prepare ICCN rangers for work in these dangerous conditions, Maisha also provided training in military-style operations, including hand-to-hand combat, camouflage and tactical law enforcement. To date, 25 ICCN rangers have received this training.


Explore some of our related projects. 

  • Bili-Uele Chimp Survey Cleve Hicks
    Bili-Uele Chimp Survey
    Protecting chimps in the Democratic Republic of Congo

    Humans remain a threat to chimps.

    The 60,000-square-kilometer Bili-Uélé Domaine de Chasse is the largest protected area in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and...

    Read more
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