Deep inside the Democratic Republic of Congo, Salonga National Park extends over 33,350km2, which makes it the largest forest national park in Africa and the second largest tropical forest park in the world. It was created in 1970 and classified as a World Heritage Site in 1984.
Salonga is so remote that it can only be accessed by water or air.
Forest elephants, bonobos, bongos, giant pangolins, and the indigenous Congo peacock all call Salonga home. The Park harbors 51 species of mammals, 129 species of fish, and 223 species of birds.
Salonga is the only National Park in bonobo range. It potentially holds 40% of the world bonobo population.
Wild bonobos are uniquely found in DRC, south of the Congo River. They were not recognized as a separate species until 1929. As the last great ape to be scientifically described, much remains unknown about them.
Bonobos share 98.7% of their genetic code with humans, making them, along with chimpanzees, our closest living relatives.
Bonobos and chimpanzees look very similar, although bonobos are usually a bit smaller, leaner and darker than their "cousin" species. Their society is also different: bonobo groups tend to be more peaceful and are led by females. They also maintain relationships and settle conflicts through sex. However, bonobo life isn’t entirely violence free; if two groups of bonobos come together, they may engage in serious fighting.
Forest elephants are a subspecies of African elephants who inhabit the densely wooded rainforests of West and Central Africa. They are smaller than their savannah counterparts and much more difficult to observe in their dense vegetation habitat.
Forest elephants have been referred to as "forest gardeners" due to their significant ecological role: many plants only germinate after their seeds have passed through an elephant's digestive tract. Further, forest elephants disperse more intact seeds over larger distances than any other species.
Tragically, forest elephants have never been more threatened: poaching and trafficking are a highly lucrative business, prompted by the skyrocketing ivory prices on international markets. Central Africa is losing its elephant population at an alarming rate, and Salonga is no exception.
Since 2015, WWF is co-managing Salonga together with the Congolese park authority ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature). We work to protect the park by reducing the illegal trade of bushmeat and endangered species, enhancing law enforcement and prosecution of perpetrators, while also ensuring livelihoods for the people in and around Salonga.