Nestled within the Congo basin region, Democratic Republic of Congo with its dense forests, green vegetation, grasslands and dramatic mountain ranges are amongst the most species-rich habitats in the world.
Its savannahs, rivers and swamps house some of the peerless and elusive creatures that are a must-see for any traveler.
Adding to its abundant Wild animals that include bonobos, forest elephants, chimpanzees, Gorillas and more, DR Congo is inhabited by over 700 fish species and thousands of different bird species.
All these species breathe life in the country’s protected areas (National Parks, Reserves and Sanctuaries) that are scattered in different regions.
It may take you number of days to trace for all Wild animals in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is even difficult, therefore we have tried to highlight below the top must-sees if you are after a glimpse of DR Congo’s myriad of Wildlife species.
Cross River Gorilla
Named a new species in 1904, Cross River Gorillas are a subspecies of the Western Gorillas. There are herbivores and feed mostly on leaves, nuts and berries from different tree species.
These Gorillas inhabit most of the highlands forests in the Cross River region. Other forests in this region are tropical and subtropical.
You can as well find these species in the lowland forest though they tend to stay at higher altitudes. Cross River Gorillas are on the verge of extinction, their total number is currently estimated to range from 200 to 300.
Currently increasing in numbers at a high rate, Mountain Gorillas are one of the species that enjoy the lush habitats of the Virunga region.
These apes are subspecies of the Eastern Gorillas, exist in two populations; one found in Virunga mountains other in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. By appearance, there are huge with broad chests, tailless, black in color and reach up to 5.6 feet (male) and 4.9 feet (female).
Their thicker fur helps them survive the colder climates. Due to human encroachment on their lands, these apes decided to extend further in the mountainous areas at elevations of 8000 to 13000 feet.
Mountain Gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo are found in Virunga National Park, a prominent protected area in the eastern part of the country.
Also an endangered species, chimpanzees have a surviving wild population of only about 172,700 to 299,700. These animals are our closest relatives, sharing about 98% of our DNA. The chimpanzees live in the central African forests with a significant population in the Congo Basin. These primates spend most of their time on trees and when on the ground, they usually travel on fours and occasionally only on their legs.
The chimpanzees of the Congo basin are currently highly threatened. Ebola outbreaks have killed tens of thousands of these animals while illegal wildlife trade has decimated the population over many years. Poaching for bush meat and capture for the illegal pet trade market is rampant in the region.
Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Classified as critically endangered, the eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) is another iconic species of the Congo Basin. Also known as the Grauer’s gorilla, it is the largest known subspecies of gorilla. Unfortunately, the eastern lowland gorilla has been subjected to adversities arising due to years of civil war and unrest in the DRC. In the last 50 years, the range of the species has drastically reduced from 8,100 square miles to only 4,600 square miles, and it occupies only 13% of its historical range in the present day. Further, the violence prevailing in the gorilla habitat has prevented researchers from conducting thorough surveys about the current status of this species. The civil unrest has also left the gorillas highly vulnerable to poaching, and their habitat to illegal logging activities. Illegal mining is also highly prevalent in the region. A quick turn of the situation is thus required if these gorillas are to be saved from extinction.
Western Lowland Gorilla
The critically endangered western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) is the most widespread and numerous of the gorilla subspecies. The gorillas reside in some of the densest and most remote forests of the Congo Basin and adjacent areas. This fact makes it difficult to study them. These gorillas are slightly smaller in size than the other subspecies and are distinguished by their auburn chests and brown-grey coats. They also feature smaller ears, wider skulls, and more pronounced eye ridges.
Poaching and disease have led to a more than 60% decline in the population of a western lowland gorilla in the past 20 to 25 years. Adult gorillas are killed off to steal babies for the illegal pet trade market while the animals are also poached for bush meat. The deadly Ebola has also recently wiped out nearly one-third of the gorilla population.
An elusive subspecies of the African elephant, the forest elephants are found in the densely wooded forests of the Congo Basin and some other parts of Central and West Africa. These elephants are smaller than savannah elephants and have straighter and downward-pointing tusks and more oval-shaped ears than their savannah counterparts. Certain other anatomical differences also exist between these two subspecies of the African elephant.
Poaching for ivory and bush meat kills these elephants in great numbers. Governments of the countries where these elephants live lack sufficient resources and financial means needed to ensure the survival of these animals. Add corruption to this, and it spells disaster for the forest elephants. The pachyderms are also suffering from habitat loss and fragmentation and consequent human-elephant conflicts.
Classified as endangered, only about 10,000 to 50,000 bonobos remain in the wild today. Bonobos are a primate species that share a close relationship with chimpanzees but are only shorter, darker, and leaner than the latter. These animals share 98.7% of their DNA with humans. The bonobo communities are more peaceful than that of chimpanzees and are led by females.
Wild bonobos are endemic to the forests south of the Congo River in DRC. The species, earlier referred to as pygmy chimpanzees, were classified as a separate species in 1929. Civil unrest in the region where the bonobos live has exposed the bonobos to criminal activities and death. Hunting is rampant in the region and is often sanctioned by the military. Bonobos are also hunted by locals for bush meat, captured to be kept as exotic pets abroad, and also killed for traditional medicine preparations. Habitat destruction also threatens bonobo populations.
The okapi, also known as the forest giraffe, Congolese giraffe, or zebra giraffe, is an artiodactyl mammal native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Although the okapi has striped markings reminiscent of zebras, it is most closely related to the giraffe. The okapi and the giraffe are the only living members of the family Giraffidae.
The okapi stands about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall at the shoulder and has a typical body length around 2.5 m (8.2 ft). Its weight ranges from 200 to 350 kg (440 to 770 lb). It has a long neck, and large, flexible ears. Its coat is a chocolate to reddish-brown, much in contrast with the white horizontal stripes and rings on the legs, and white ankles.
The common duiker, also known as the grey or bush duiker, is a small antelope found in everywhere in Africa south of the Sahara, excluding the Horn of Africa and the rainforests of the central and western parts of the continent. Generally, they are found in habitats with sufficient vegetation cover to allow them to hide—savanna and hilly areas, including the fringes of human settlements.
The colouration of this species varies widely over its vast geographic range. There are 14 subspecies described, ranging from chestnut in forested areas of Angola to grizzled grey in northern savannas and light brown shades in arid regions. It grows to about 50 cm (20 in) in height and generally weighs 12 to 25 kg (26 to 55 lb); although females are generally larger and heavier than the males. Only the male has horns and these can grow to 11 cm (4.3 in) long.
The common eland, also known as the southern eland or eland antelope, is a savannah and plains antelope found in East and Southern Africa. It is a species of the family Bovidae and genus Taurotragus.
An adult male is around 1.6 meters (5′) tall at the shoulder (females are 20 centimetres (8″) shorter) and can weigh up to 942 kg (2,077 lb) with an average of 500–600 kg (1,100–1,300 lb), 340–445 kg (750–981 lb) for females). It is the second-largest antelope in the world, being slightly smaller on average than the giant eland. It was scientifically described by Peter Simon Pallas in 1766.
Mainly a herbivore, its diet is primarily grasses and leaves. Common elands form herds of up to 500 animals but are not territorial. The common eland prefers habitats with a wide variety of flowering plants such as savannah, woodlands, and open and montane grasslands; it avoids dense forests.
It uses loud barks, visual and postural movements and the flehmen response to communicate and warn others of danger. The common eland is used by humans for leather, meat, and rich, nutritious milk, and has been domesticated in many areas.