According to Rainforest-Facts.com, only the Amazonian rainforest is larger than the rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), located in central Africa. The forest is home to 450 species of mammals, in addition to over 11,000 species of plants, 1,150 bird species, 200 amphibian and 300 reptile species. The Congo rainforest is so dense that the centermost parts remain untouched by outsiders even in the early 21st century.
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Western Lowland Gorilla
Western lowland gorillas are herbivores, eating mostly leaves but also fruit, nuts and termites. Active during the day, they forage in the morning, nap during the heat of the day, and forage again until evening, when they make a nest of leaves to sleep on. These gorillas are completely black, except for mature males, which grow silver hair along their heads and shoulders, earning them the name "silverback." They are very social animals; groups usually consist of about five, and while they don't defend their territory, they usually steer clear of each another. Scientists estimate their numbers in the wild to be between 90,000 and 110,000, and they are considered critically endangered, in part due to bush meat hunters.
Related most closely to the chimpanzee, the bonobo is one of the great apes. It was only identified by humans in 1933 due to the fact that it inhabits the densest and remotest parts of the Congo rainforest. According to ZooSociety.org, "some anthropologists consider the bonobo to be the best living prototype for the common ancestor of humans." However, chimpanzees are a closer genetic match to humans. More than any other African great ape, bonobos spend a lot of time in trees eating fruits, leaves and stem piths. Females give birth approximately once every five years; babies are completely dependent for four years. They are currently listed as endangered, and scientists do not have an accurate idea of their numbers in the wild, according to the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.
The forest elephant is smaller than the bush elephant of the African plains, and there is some dispute about whether or not it is a separate species. Forest elephants are sometimes called pygmy elephants due to their small stature, and experts like the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group believe that the species is smaller due to evolution via environmental conditions. Forest elephants eat bark, fruit and leaves, and they play a crucial role in maintaining the rainforest. They are considered to be the most prolific and therefore important spreader of seeds, their large piles of dung achieving wide seed dispersal. Since they travel long distances, so do the seeds they carry. Due to illegal poaching for ivory and bush meat, in 2010, they are close to extinction. Writing for the Treehugger website, Kimberley Mok states that "without forest elephants--who are currently facing unprecedented threats to their survival--the tropical forests will not be the same."
The okapi is closely related to the giraffe. It is the giraffe's sole living relative, despite the fact that it looks like a zebra. Okapis appear to be a strange patchwork of several animals; horse-like in body and head, with a neck longer than a horse's, and a long, black giraffe-like tongue. Males also have short hair-covered horns similar to those of a giraffe. Okapis walk like their relatives, too: the two front legs move in unison, as do the back two. Their dark brown bodies, with white stripes down the legs and on the rump, provide them instant camouflage. They are rarely seen in the wild, but when they are, they are either alone or in a mother-offspring pair.
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