Ituri rain forest lies within the Ituri Province of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) previously known as Zaire. This spectacular forest was named after the Ituri River that flows via the rain forest, joining to River Aruwimi and then enters to DR Congo. This tropical rain forest covers an area of 63000 square kilometers and it lies between 700 meters in the south and 1000 meters in the north. The average temperature at this rain-forest is 31 degrees Celsius and experiences humidity of 85 percent. Approximately, a fifth of this forest covers areas of Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It offers refuge to Mbuti pygmies one of the popular hunter-gatherers, Equatorial rain forest dwellers and characterized by short heights. This dramatic group of people was subject of study by Collin Turn bull, the Forest people in 1962. The Ituri rain forest was first traversed by Europeans in 1887 by Henry Morton Stanley on his Emin Pasha Relief Expedition. Besides the Bambuti, there are also other distinct Bantu tribes especially the Sua who are linked to the Budu or Babudu on the western side of the Ituri forest, next to Wamba and Aka. The Efe also occupy the largest portion of the forest especially between the northern and eastern areas of this forest and these are linked to the Sudanic speaking Mamyu and Lese. The Mbuti on other hand stay with the Bila in the heart of the forest.
This stunning rain-forest also lies along the northeastern side of the Congo River basin in the DR Congo. It is surrounded in the north and northeast by savanna and in the east by the fertile highlands of the western rift valley while in the south and western side; there is lowland rain forest where its rivers drain to the Congo River. Its trees range from small saplings just inches in diameter to gigantic hardwoods stretching to heights of 52 meters (170 feet). Just like the pillars of a Gothic cathedral, these giant trees are buttressed, with roots stretching from down their sides and extend for a good distance across the forest floor making the ground a labyrinth of roots which anchor the trees and grab scarce nutrients from the shallow forest soil.
In areas with high canopy, only small elusive patches of sunlight can find themselves in the forest floor. Due to lack of light at the lower level of the forest, a few shrub species and small trees which thrive under such shaded conditions while areas with some space feature herbaceous plants with long leaves. The vegetation around the ground is a thick tangle of nettles, creepers and competing species of fast thriving, short lived trees that make walking a bit challenging. This area features most of the fallen nuts and fruit, most of which are enjoyed by monkeys, antelopes and rodents while other seasons there are several flower species including the epiphytes that cling to the surface of other plants.
Ituri rain forest features tall, hardwood legumes in the sub family Caesalpinioideae. In the south and west, there is Gilbertiodendron deweverei which makes about 90%. The areas of the forest dominated by only a few species of plants feature less abundant and diverse wildlife than the other areas. There are also Cynometra alexandrii and Brachystegia laurentii that all together consist not more than 40% of the canopy. Its wild animals include hyenas, okapis, leopards, genets, mongoose, pygmy antelope, duikers, water chevrotain, elephants, spotted necked otter, the debrazza’s guenon, Schmidt’s spot nosed guenon, forest buffaloes, bongo, monkeys such as Anubis baboon, leaf eating imperial black and white colobus, owl faced monkey, chimpanzee as well as bird species like the shy Congo peacock, emerald starling, Great Blue Turaco, Senegal gonolek, Tambourine dove,
The climate in Ituri Forest
This rainforest receives an average annual rainfall of about 1900 mm and temperatures of about 31 degrees Celsius. The dry spell at this tropical rainforest stretches from December to February. The heaviest rainfall is received between October and early November.
In conclusion, Ituri rainforest is one of the most magnificent natural forests in Africa. It consists of variety of natural wonders (whether you are interested in exploring birds, wildlife or plants) which are worth exploring while you are on safari in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).