Congoforum Congoforum

Analysis and reflections
Congo documentation
Belgium documentation


Ituri forest

The Ituri Forest is a dense tropical rain forest in the northern part of the Congo River Basin in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). It covers a vast area of over 24,300 square miles (62,900 sq km) of land in central Africa. The altitude of the forest varies from 2,300 feet (700 m) in the south to 3,300 feet (1,000 m) above sea level in the north. The geographic boundaries of the Ituri Forest are difficult to define as the forest blends in with other forests and swamp regions. The Ituri borders savanna to the north, the Western Rift Valley to the east, and lowland rain forest to the south and west. The name Ituri Forest derives from the Ituri River, which runs from east to west across the forest, flowing into the Aruwimi River before emptying into the Congo River.

Physical and Climatic Features

There are various types of
vegetation growing in the forest, ranging from 170ft (52m) gigantic
hardwoods to small saplings that are only a few inches (~10cm) in
diameter. Because of the large number of trees growing throughout the
forest, the forest floor is a vast network of entangled roots which in
some cases makes it impossible to pass through sections of the forest
on foot. In many areas, the high canopy is so dense that only small
amounts of sunlight peek through the trees and reach the forest floor.
Due to the lack of light, the lower levels of the forest have very
little vegetation growing, if any at all. Where gaps in the canopy are
large enough to allow sunlight to penetrate, large herbaceous plants
with long leaves grow in dense groupings. The forest attracts many
types of wildlife which feed off the large amounts of fruits and nuts
that have fallen to the ground.

The Ituri Forest has many
streams and rivers that flow from east to west through the forest. The
Ituri River is accompanied by several other rivers such as the Nepoko
to the north, the Epulu and Nduye in the central part and the Ibina to
the south. The majority of the rivers are not navigable for more than
several miles at a time because of the varying density of vegetation.
Each year over 75 inches (1,900 mm) of rain falls in the forest and
contributes to the streams flowing through the forest. On average,
there are 2,000 hours of sunshine per year (roughly 180 days out of the
year). The Ituri Forest goes through a dry season in the period
December-February, when there is less than 7 inches of rainfall. The
heaviest rains occur in October and early November. It is during these
months that streams will flood, making it almost impossible to travel
long distances in the forest itself. The average temperature is
generally 88(F (31(C) year-round. During the dry season small streams
dry up and the humidity is greatly reduced.


Most of the vegetation still
consists of enormous trees which have been growing for hundreds of
years in the Ituri Forest. The hardwood legume is the most dominant
species still to be found in the forest and reaches at least 150 feet
above the forest floor. There are three sub-species classified under
the hardwired legume. Gilbertiodendron deweverei is found in the
southern part of the forest and comprise 90% of the vegetation in that
region. The Cynometra alexandrii and Brachystegia laurentii are the
other two sub-species which constitute approximately 40% of the canopy.
The tallest species of trees found in the Ituri are the Albizia,
Celtis, and Ficus. However, the majority of these trees do not help any
of the wildlife in the region since most of the trees are at least
100ft tall.


The Ituri Forest is bordered by
the forest-savanna which means that various species of wildlife wander
into the forest to feed on the vegetation. One can frequently find
numerous species of forest antelope such as the duiker, the water
chevrotain, and the pygmy antelope, along with leopards, genets,
mongooses, elephant, buffalo, and bongo. There are many different types
of monkeys in the forest, including the terrestrial anubis baboon,
leaf-eating imperial black and white colobus and the owl-faced monkey.
The chimpanzee can also be found in the Ituri and is the only ape that
has been seen in the forest. Hundreds of different species of birds can
be seen, such as the Congo peacock.

The Maiko National Park,
located on the southern edge of the forest, is about the only attempt
to protect the forest elephant, the okapi, the Congo peacock, the
aardvark, and the chimpanzee. However, forest destruction and poaching
have caused these animals to become endangered.

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