Plants and Animals of the Congo Rainforest

The Congo is home to more different species of plant and animal than any other African country. The Congo Rainforest is  characterized by dense rainforest. Broad-leaved trees , such as African oak, red cedar, and  mahogany, form a dense upper canopy, usually over 40 metres above ground. Trees of different sizes form several canopies below this.

The competition for light means tall growth is necessary, as only about 1% of light reaches the ground. Lianas and Ficus (strangler figs) are climbers who send shoots through trees to obtain more sunlight. Few plants can survive at the very bottom and this layer is made up of rapidly decomposing dead leaves, moss growing on downed trees, and small ferns. The decomposition of dead materials is important to the rainforest as plants depend on mineral nutrients. Dead trees provide shelter and breeding sites for bats and birds and other small animals.11,000 forest plants have been identified and 1,100 of these are found nowhere else. Around 69 of these species are threatened.

Medicinal plants are harvested from the rainforest, biochemicals are extracted and are used to synthesis of drugs. International Cancer Institutes have identified 1400 tropical forest plants with potential to fight cancer.

The rainforest is inhabitated by some of the great animals of the earth such as the giant mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei), one of the more endangered of the two gorilla species. The forests also contain many varieties of chimpanzees, elephants, pygmy hippopotamus , antelopes, wild boars, and buffalos, and white rhino. Many species of birds find home here including the eagle, hawk and oil, heron. Crocodiles also live throughout the Congo River as do many types of fish; perch, catfish. Snakes species include the cobra, green mambas, puff adders, and python survive in the rainforest. Insects including the tsetse fly, which causes severe sleeping sickness in human beings and the mosquito,which carries malaria and yellow fever.