From famous forest elephants to the obscure Charaxes butterflies, the Congo River Basin has earned a global reputation for the variety of wildlife found inside its forests.

These contain a major share of the African continent’s biodiversity: more than 60% of butterflies and passereaux birds, and more than 80% of African primates. Some of the world’s most spectacular and endangered wildlife lives in Central Africa, including one-half of the remaining elephants on the continent. Ten thousand species of plants (of which 3,000 are found nowhere else), 1,000 species of birds, and 400 species of mammals, 216 species of amphibians, 280 species of reptiles and more than 900 species of butterflies are found here.

The rivers of the Congo River Basin are especially rich in aquatic biodiversity, with most species unique to the region (endemic).

A conspicuous feature of the Congo River Basin forests is that the diversity of species varies greatly from one place to another. Peaks of biodiversity and endemism (number of species found nowhere else) are found in the Cameroon highlands, the western equatorial forests of Cameroon and Gabon, the coastal mangroves, the Albertine Rift highlands and the eastern lowland forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Frogs and birds abound in mountain areas, where many endemic species are found. Endemic species vary considerably in range and size. The pygmy chimpanzee, or bonobo (Pan Paniscus), is distributed throughout the forests of the Congo River Basin and the okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is found across north and northeastern DRC.