Conservation in a conflict zone

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the most important countries in Africa for biodiversity conservation. It has the highest number of species for almost all groups of organisms with the exception of plants, in which it is second only to South Africa.

The DRC also harbours a number of spectacular endemic species like the okapi, Grauer’s gorilla, bonobo and Congo peacock. It possesses over 50% of Africa’s tropical forests. Dense forests and woodlands cover more than half of the DRC’s total land area of 2.3 million km² and play a critically important role in maintaining global climatic cycles.

It is extremely rich in natural resources. The DRC contains large reserves of coltan (which is used in a wide range of electronic devices), copper, gold and many other valuable minerals. It is also one of the world’s largest producers of industrial diamonds.

Yet the DRC is one of the least developed countries in the world. Approximately 63% of the population lives under the poverty line, with systemic corruption and bubbling conflict hindering economic development, and is ranked 176th out of 188 on the Human Development Index.

This widespread poverty, recurring conflict and economic dependence on mineral extraction is putting unprecedented pressure on the country’s spectacular biodiversity, with poaching, pollution, deforestation and soil erosion all threatening wildlife and habitats.

A recent report by Fauna & Flora International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and other partners found, for example, that Grauer’s gorillas have experienced a shocking 77% decline in numbers over the last two decades as a result of illegal hunting, civil unrest and habitat loss from mining.

DRC Facts
Africa Country in Africa

Size (land & water)

2,344,858 km²

Population (2016 est.)


GDP per capita (2016 est.)



Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is located in Africa. It is bordered by the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda,  Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola and the Republic of the Congo.


emergency funding was provided through the Rapid Response Facility in 2012 to rebuild DRC’s Okapi Wildlife Reserve following a deadly attack by rebel militias.

All five

of the DRC’s natural World Heritage sites are listed as ‘in danger’.

Our work to protect DRC’s biodiversity

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working in the DRC for several decades, ensuring that wildlife conservation has retained a voice throughout the extended periods of civil unrest and political turbulence.

Since 2007 we have been supporting the Congolese protected area authority – the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN) – and local people to manage the country’s astounding biodiversity. This work has ranged from helping to develop a community conservation strategy, which was adopted nationally, to supporting local communities in developing appropriate local governance systems to ensure that natural resources can be managed sustainably.

We have supported biodiversity monitoring that has identified critical areas for important species such as Grauer’s gorillas, chimpanzees, okapi, bongo and forest elephants. We also played a critical role in designing and coordinating an unprecedented collaborative survey of Grauer’s gorillas, to understand what is happening to the population of these animals and what needs to be done to save them from extinction.

Today, our work is focused on supporting two community reserves that are home to Grauer’s gorillas, by building local capacity to manage these reserves effectively. We have also been helping the community rangers to carry out monthly bio-monitoring patrols, allowing them to keep a watch over the resident gorilla groups and other threatened species as well as deter illegal activities within the reserves.

Not only does this provide the community rangers with a stable source of income, it also means that the reserves’ wildlife can benefit from their expert local knowledge. We are also supporting sustainable use of natural resources by local communities, creating livelihood options that relieve pressure on the forest.

Revealing the elusive Okapi

Despite their elusive behaviour, okapis have been a victim of hunting for many years. As a result, their numbers have halved in just two decades and it’s now estimated that only 35,000 okapis remain in the wild.

Our new project, ‘Supporting the long-term survival of okapi in Eastern DRC through coordinated, and sustainable local conservation approaches’ hopes to be able to track the locations of the okapi. This work is supported by IUCN Save Our Species and co-funded by the European Union. Since receiving the grant in 2022, we have deployed teams across Kanyama, Bitule and Omate community forests and discovered 184 traces of okapi. This data is being fed into the design of a camera-trap survey which started in January 2023.