Tropical Rainforests Week

The Congo Basin

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The Congo Basin is the second largest tropical rainforest on Earth and is often called the lungs of Africa!

Not only does it have an amazing and diverse range of plants and animals but it also is home to local indigenous people. Many of the animals who live there are critically endangered and there are 39 species of animal that are found nowhere else on the planet! The Congo River drains water from the area known as the Congo Basin which is covered with tropical rainforests and swamps.

There are more than 600 different tree species here and around 10,000 different animals. You will know about elephants and of course the gorillas and chimps, but there are also hippos and lions. Sadly many of the trees in the rainforest are being cut down for timber and to allow more people to live on the edges of the rain forest. Roads have to be build to allow large logging lorries to take out the wood so there are less paths for the elephants to travel. There are plans to try to slow the rate of deforestation by granting local villagers large areas of the forest so they can live there and claim ownership to stop the big companies coming to cut down the trees. There are small signs that it may be working!

A really interesting animal in the Congo is the okapi also know as the Congolese giraffe or zebra giraffe. Although it has stripy legs like a zebra it is much more closely related to a giraffe. You can see in the picture that it has a giraffe like face!

Okapi
Male Okapi in captivity at ZooParc de Beauva

The gorillas in the Congo are very important and are endangered, There are estimated to be around 1063 of the mountain gorillas left in the wild.

Did you know that we share around 98% of our DNA with gorillas? That means that if humans come to close and pass on the cold or some other bug it can make them very sick indeed as they don’t have our immunity!

An average mountain gorilla can weigh around 180kg - that’s pretty heavy and can be 170cm tall!

They live for around 35 years, and they eat mostly plants and leaves and shoots. In fact, they eat pretty much all day long!

The gorillas are lead by the biggest and strongest male, and he is called a silverback because the hair on its back changes to a sort of silvery grey as he gets older.

The smaller gorillas will make their beds in the trees, and the others will make a nest in the grass on the ground.

The soils and plants of the Congo Basin feed the animals that inhabit the rainforests and store a vast amount of carbon, preventing it from being emitted into our atmosphere and speeding up climate change!

Small trees are among the oldest in Congolese rainforest

Gorilla | Amazing Animals
Animals of the Congo Basin
Make a Venomous Snake
Make a Venomous Snake (PDF)

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