You may never see the vast remote forests of the Congo Basin in person, but they still play a vital role in your daily life.
The reason is clear. Only Amazonia is a larger expanse of tropical wilderness on our planet. About two-thirds of the Congo Forests remain in pristine condition. Massive and healthy, the Congo Forests help store the world’s carbon and keep our global climate in check.
Sprawling across nearly 1.7 million square kilometers and seven nations, the Congo Forests also give people, plants, and animals what they need to survive, sustained at its heart by the mighty Congo River. Amid tropical and swamp forests, savannas, mountains and volcanoes, the Congo Basin forests provide food, water and shelter for unique wildlife and human cultures who have co-existed for millennia. They sustain a bizarre and ancient menagerie including pygmy antelope, dwarf crocodiles, and goliath frogs.
Perhaps most famous among these species are the gorillas that wander these forests. These gentle giants are conservationists by nature. They move regularly to ensure that leaves have sufficient time to re-grow between their visits and so continue feeding their families. Thanks to their size, strength and intelligence, gorillas face almost no mortal threats from other animals -- except human beings.
Sadly, that’s what they’re up against in the Congo Basin. It’s still not easy to reach the heart of the Congo Basin, but it’s getting easier every day. In the absence of many regulations to prevent the influx of new industry, logging roads are cutting through the region, supporting a lucrative bushmeat trade for wealthy urban-dwellers. As people encroach they bring new diseases, such as ebola, which jump the species divide and have brought the western gorilla to the edge of extinction. In the wake of this creeping transformation, agriculture is expanding. The changes are damaging habitats and resources for animals, plants, and people alike.
Conservation International works to make sure the Congo Basin wilderness stays healthy by helping empower those that live there to protect their resources – including their gorillas – for their own livelihoods and well-being. In 2007, 50 students became the first group to graduate from the nation’s first formally accredited conservation university. Supported in part by CI, the university is one of several projects intended to cultivate a new generation of conservationists in this amazing region.