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The Democratic Republic of the Congo is an important center for biodiversity

preservation in Africa and the world. It is also home to some rare species of animal such as the
bonobo, Congo peacock, Grauers gorilla, and the rare okapi as seen in figure 1. The DRC
harbors over 50% of the tropical forests that can be found in Africa and they cover 2.3 million
km, half of its land. These forests play a huge role in preserving global climatic cycles Only
South Africa has greater numbers of plant species. The traditional religion of the Pygmies was
animism which believed that every living being had a soul. They saw all plants and animals as
sacred and never revered one over another. Pygmies also believed that there was one great soul
of the forest that cared for the other souls who lived within the forest. This is what gave them
such inclination to believe in the Christian ways since they already believed in one great God
who ruled over them all. The Congo is one of the least developed countries in the world, yet it is
the richest area to find industrial diamonds. With 70% of the population living under the poverty
line, the citizens of the DRC have little money to preserve their unique biodiversity. They rely on
their natural resources to bring money into their economy, as unreliable as that may be. There is
the Fauna & Flora International (FFI) program and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation
de la Nature, which puts its concentrated efforts on trying to resolve the biodiversity issue by
supporting the Congolese authority while managing the biodiversity known to the Democratic
Republic of the Congo. They invite the local communities of the Congo, who rely on the natural
resources, to join in learning about the importance of protecting the resources that can be found
in the protected areas of the Congo.

Figure 1: Image of an Okapi.
Retrieved from: http://www.sdzsafaripark.org/parkwildlife/okapi.html

The coltan (coltan - a mineral used in creating capacitors, diamonds, and gold) wars are
going on over the minerals and resources that are found in the area where protected species are
being housed. (Aveling, 2014) National Parks, who protect gorillas and other species from
hunters, are too often taken over by treasure hunters who want the land/animals for a profit in the
market. The warlords of the land are forcing the citizens into starvation mode where they start to
hunt wildlife for bush meat. While the situation is already dire, gorillas are an endangered
species who are being hunted into extinction.
Although the Democratic Republic of the Congo use to house quite a tourist business,
tourism has declined in the past couple of decades. The rebel groups and warlords are providing
a volatile situation over the naturally occurring resources. Before 1990, the DRC was known as a
hotspot for animal and plant biodiversity. The country is home to two national parks; the Virunga
National Park and the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (Figure 2) which are both UNESCO World
Heritage Sites. Together, the two National Parks contain several habitats that include two active
volcanoes, Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira, along with the worlds largest consolidation of hippos
in one area. Due to the poaching, and exploitation of minerals, the Democratic Republic of the
Congo has had a hard time attracting tourists because of the lack of funding and preservation of
the biodiversity. While rangers still attempt to care for the parks, there is little to help the
lowland gorillas, hippos, and Okapis when there is so little funding and so very much fighting.

Figure 2: The Kahuzi-Biega National Park sign in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Retrieved from http://gorillatrekking.travel/content/kahuzi-biega-national-park-democratic-
republic-congo

Biodiversity in the Congo is on the decline because of the multiple cultural issues that are
rampant in the society. Poaching, water pollution, deforestation, mining, and refugees just
struggling to survive are not helping the cause of preservation. Refugees, seen in figure 3, have
been causing soil erosion, poaching, and deforestation themselves because of the active wars
being fought by rebel groups and their assailants. Back in the year 2000, the United Nations
established the Illegal Exploitation of Congolese Resources which had a team of experts examine
the effect the wars are having on the biodiversity of the land. The Group of Experts published a
report in December 2008 that documented how armed groups in eastern D.R.C. finance their
activities through the exploitation of natural resources. (Administration, 2012)

Figure 3: A refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Retrieved from
http://www.ingeta.com/how-mass-atrocities-end-or-dont-the-democratic-republic-of-congo/

Overall, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a beautiful biodiversity that is revered
by many. However, due to recent wars in the Congo, and ongoing political uncertainty leading to
a weak and ineffective central government, the preservation of the wildlife has been set aside to
address the survival of the refuges of this war. Tourism was, at one time, a great asset to the
DRC community yet, it has fallen into ruins on account of the unstable war grounds. The people
of the Congo are worried about their own survival over an animal species which makes it hard to
preserve what is left of the natural world. The water is being polluted for the humans as well as
the wildlife and the mining is causing its own pollution with fumes and leftover, rotting
equipment. The impression I receive is that the Congo cannot appreciate and conserve what it
has, because it simply cannot afford to.
Sources:
Aveling, R. (2014, January 1). Democratic Republic of Congo . . Retrieved August 5, 2014, from
http://www.fauna-flora.org/explore/drc/
Administration, N., Agency, C., Fund, W., & Department, U. (2012). Democratic Republic of the
Congo. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/151683
Conflict and Bio-diversity Conservation - Republic of Congo Case Study. (2012, November 16). . Retrieved
August 5, 2014, from http://envecologic.com/2012/11/16/conflict-and-bio-diversity-conservation-
republic-of-congo-case-study/
Wolters, S. (1970, January 1). 10 things to know before visiting Democratic Republic of Congo. CNN.
Retrieved August 5, 2014, from http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/06/travel/10-things-about-congo/
Jacobs, J. (2014, January 1). Megadiversity. About.com Geography. Retrieved August 5, 2014, from
http://geography.about.com/od/physicalgeography/a/Megadiverse-Countries.htm