About the Democratic Republic of Congo

  • About one-quarter the size of the United States, with a wide variety of terrain, including a portion of the Virunga mountains in Africa’s oldest national park (Virunga National Park).
  • Varied climate, flora and fauna, including many unique species. Includes large areas of forest and biodiversity located outside of protected national parks.
  • Home to two types of eastern gorillas: Mountain gorillas in the Virunga area, and Grauer’s gorillas in areas further west.
  • Many ethnic groups, languages and dialects.
  • A rich supply of natural resources.
  • Several decades of security problems, conflict and instability.
  • Extreme poverty in many areas, lower population density in the eastern section.

Our gorilla conservation work in Congo

  • We currently work in two areas where critically endangered Grauer’s gorillas are located: in Kahuzi-Biega National Park and in community forests outside of protected areas.
  • Kahuzi-Biega park contains the only habituated Grauer’s gorillas, which are monitored and protected by the Congolese wildlife authorities (ICCN).
  • In Nkuba, we monitor and protect groups of Grauer’s gorillas that live outside protected areas in remote forests that are threatened by mining, hunting and other illegal activities.
  • The Grauer’s gorillas we protect are not habituated to the presence of humans, so our trackers follow them at one day’s distance, using signs such as night nests, droppings, food remains, and footprints to document them.

Our community programs in Congo

  • Working with traditional landowners to establish a governance system for protecting their forests and biodiversity.
  • Operating community farming projects to help provide alternative food sources to villagers.
  • Providing school fees for local children to attend primary and secondary schools.
  • Teaching classes at local colleges and universities.

Goals

  • Continue to increase the number of Grauer’s gorillas protected by identifying areas where additional protection is needed.
  • Help local communities rely less on forests for food by introducing alternatives such as farming.
  • Increase educational opportunities for local communities.
  • Study the roles that mining and other illegal activities play in the loss of gorillas and other biodiversity.

Challenges

  • Most Grauer’s gorillas live in remote areas outside of national parks and are not formally protected.
  • Mining and other illegal activities are common in the region where gorillas live, leading to increased hunting and deforestation.
  • Local communities often suffer from extreme poverty and malnutrition and still depend on the forest for food and other resources.
  • Numerous rebel groups operate within the forests, which makes protection extremely difficult and dangerous.

 

Click here to learn about our work in Rwanda.