Fleuve Congo elephant

The origins of the forest elephant

The forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) has long been considered a subspecies of the savannah elephant. Scientists have finally decided. It is indeed a distinct species as DNA analyzes have shown. However, the two species can interbreed and produce hybrids. According to paleogenetics, the savannah and forest elephants of Africa separated around 5 to 2 million years ago. For the past 500,000 years, they have lived isolated from each other and have not crossed paths. DNA analysis of the straight-tusked forest elephant (Paleoloxodon antiquus), which lived in Europe 120,000 years ago, has shown that Loxodonta cyclotis is closest to it, and not the savannah elephant. The height at the withers of the forest elephant is on average 2.40 m. It is therefore much smaller than the elephants living in the savannah (3.50 m). The forest elephant also has thicker brown hair and rounded ears. As its name suggests, the African forest elephant lives in the rainforests of Africa and plays an important role in the seed dispersal of many plants.

The African forest elephant inhabits the forests of the Congo Basin

The African forest elephant is native to the rainforests of West Africa and the Congo Basin. It is the smallest of the three living elephant species. Both sexes have straight, downward-pointing tusks, which burst when they are 1–3 years old. It lives in family groups of up to 20 individuals. Its diet consists of leaves, seeds, fruits and tree bark. It contributes significantly to the maintenance of the composition and structure of the Guinean forests of West Africa and the Congolese rainforests. The first scientific description of the species was published in 1900. Over the course of the 20th century, overhunting led to a sharp decline in the population, and in 2013 it was estimated that fewer than 30,000 individuals remained. The conservation status of populations varies between range countries. As of 2021, the species is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The ‘critically endangered’ forest elephant

A "critically endangered" species.

It is threatened by habitat loss, fragmentation and poaching. The ivory trade to Asia is the primary cause of the illegal killing of elephants. The African savannah elephant, its cousin, is considered « endangered ». The forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), smaller than its savannah cousin, lives mainly in the forests of Central and West Africa. Its population has dropped by 86% in 30 years and it is now considered critically endangered. For its part, the savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana) have seen their population reduced by at least 60% in the last 50 years, and are classified as « endangered ».

Forest Elephant Behavior

Much information about the forest elephant’s lifestyle comes from animals in the Dzanga Sangha Conservation Area, where corresponding studies were initiated in 1990. Like the savannah elephant, the forest elephant is a social animal. On average, a herd consists of three individuals. In the area of forest clearings, which represent important social contact points, larger herds of 20 to 100 animals may also gather. However, they disintegrate again relatively quickly. This social system, known as fission-fusion, is also found in the savannah African elephant. In contrast, forest elephant groups are smaller and less stable, which is related to the lower distribution of potential predators in dense forests.

Size of groups

The size of family groups can vary depending on the habitat. For example, in Odzala National Park in the Republic of Congo, herds with fewer individuals on average than in more open landscapes have been observed. Also unlike the savannah elephant, forest elephant males rarely form bachelor groups, but younger males sometimes live communally. The males carry out their social competitions and struggles for dominance especially in the clearings. There are also solitary elephants of both sexes and almost all age groups. The forest elephant is active during the day, resting for about four hours a day. A shorter resting phase takes place during the day, a longer one at night. According to observations in the Dzanga Sangha Conservation Area, the greatest activity takes place between 12:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Area of habitat zone

The main circadian rhythm consists of searching for food and migrating to the different activity zones. Individual animals travel up to 25 km in 48 hours, but on the whole the migratory movements do not last as long as for the savannah elephant. During its travels, the forest elephant creates paths that extend over several kilometers and connect the various activity points with each other. Well-used trails can be more than 1 m wide. Herds and solitaries use activity zones that cover an area of 500 km² and more. The average home range size, based on more than a dozen individuals examined, is about 713 km² in the Wonga Wongué Presidential Reserve in Gabon. Male animals move on average over an area of 965 km², which is almost three times larger than that of females with 354 km². In the Congo Basin, animals change daily between different types of vegetation: from tropical rainforests to open grasslands. As a result, they travel about 7 to 8 km in 24 hours, which corresponds to an annual migration of 2840 km. They spend two-thirds of their time in tropical rainforests. The rest of their time in open grassy areas. The forests are mainly visited during the day during the period of sunshine, which is why the animals mainly choose areas with a high density of trees and brush.

Forest elephant communication system

Communication between forest elephants occurs via different vocalizations. Like other elephants, the forest elephant also has excellent hearing and is able to make and perceive low frequency sounds down to 5 Hz. most common of the forest elephant. It serves in particular to communicate between them, to locate the members of the herd and to coordinate the common migration. Low frequency sounds allow communication over long distances. In addition to the well-known trumpeting, there is a whole palette of higher frequency sounds. Most combined sounds are emitted at night. During the Expeditions Ducret, we suggest you spend a night on the edges of a clearing frequented by elephants. You will then be able to witness the intense communication of elephants at night. Find more information on the safari cruises page.


Turaco of Congo Basin

Birds of the Congo Basin

The Republic of Congo is a Central African country known for its high biodiversity, including its richness in bird species. It is estimated that there are more than 800 species of birds in Congo Basin, including about 700 in the Republic of Congo alone.

The Republic of the Congo is home to a great diversity of bird species, several of which are emblematic of the region. Here are a few :

The African gray parrot (Psittacus erithacus): The African gray parrot is a gregarious species of parrot, very intelligent and capable of learning many words and expressions. It is widespread throughout Congo Basin, including the Republic of Congo, where it is often kept as a pet.

The turaco is a colorful and emblematic bird of the region, easily recognizable thanks to its bright plumage. The turaco is a medium-sized sub-Saharan African bird. There are 18 species of turaco, which are mainly distinguished by the marking on the face.

The silver-cheeked ground hornbill (Bycanistes brevis): The silver-cheeked ground hornbill is a species of hornbill that is endemic to Congo Basin, including the Republic of Congo. It is easily recognizable by its black head and neck, white chest and massive beak.

African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer): The African Fish Eagle is a large species of eagle found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including the Congo Basin. It is often seen hunting fish near streams and lakes.

African Swift (Apus barbatus): The African Swift is a species of migratory bird that overwinters in Africa, including the Republic of Congo. It is easily recognized by its swift and graceful flight, and is often seen in large numbers in the sky.

The African gray parrot (Psittacus erithacus)

The African gray parrot, also known as the jaco parrot, is a gregarious parrot species native to sub-Saharan Africa, including the Republic of Congo. It is one of the most popular parrot species as a pet bird in the world, due to its intelligence and ability to learn words and phrases.

The African gray parrot is a large bird, measuring about 33 centimeters in length and weighing between 400 and 650 grams. Its plumage is mostly gray, with a red tail and dark wings. Young parrots have a shorter beak and lighter plumage color than adults.

These parrots are very social and need interaction with humans and other parrots to be happy and healthy. They are also very intelligent and can learn many words and expressions, as well as tricks and behaviors.

The African gray parrot is a protected species due to loss of its natural habitat and illegal hunting for the pet trade. Conservation efforts aim to protect the natural habitats of parrots, as well as raise awareness of parrot conservation issues and encourage captive breeding rather than capture of wild parrots.


The turaco

The turaco is one of the colorful and emblematic birds that can be found in the forests of Central Africa, especially in the Congo.

The turaco is easily recognizable thanks to their bright plumage. Males and females have similar colors, but males tend to have taller crests than females. The turaco also has red eyes, a unique feature among birds.

These birds mainly live in dense forests and wooded areas, where they feed mainly on fruits, leaves and flowers. They are also known for their loud, melodious call, which is often used to communicate with other turacos.

The green turaco is characterized by bright light green plumage. Its tail is long and its head furnished with a colorful crest-like crest. It has a bright red, robust, curved beak with a black tip. The green turaco has short and rounded wings, red markings are uncovered when they are deployed. The lower back, legs, feet and tail are dark.

Its size is 43 cm long with the tail. Its weight varies from 220 g to 300 g. However, the great blue turaco can measure up to 75 cm.

Although turacos are considered relatively common in their natural habitat, their population is threatened by habitat destruction and hunting for their meat and feathers. As a result, they are classified as ‘special concern’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

The silver-cheeked ground hornbill (Bycanistes brevis)

The hornbill is a species of bird in the family Bucerotidae, which is endemic to central Africa, including the Republic of Congo. It is easily recognizable by its black and white plumage, black head and neck, white chest and large helmet-like beak.

Silver-cheeked ground hornbills are large birds, measuring between 70 and 75 cm in length and weighing up to 2 kg. They feed mainly on fruits, but can also eat insects, small mammals and reptiles.

These birds are known for their aggressive territorial behavior, with loud calls and threatening bill movements when feeling threatened or defending their territory. Males and females work together to build their nest, which is often built in hollow trees or tree trunks.

The silver-cheeked ground hornbill is threatened by the loss of its natural habitat due to deforestation, as well as illegal hunting for meat and the illegal pet trade. Conservation of this species includes protecting its natural habitat and raising public awareness of the conservation importance of silver-cheeked ground hornbills.

African fish eagle

It is also known as the sea eagle, is a species of eagle that is widely distributed in the wetlands of sub-Saharan Africa, including the Republic of Congo. As its name suggests, this bird specializes in catching fish, but can also feed on other aquatic animals such as turtles, crocodiles or frogs.

The African fish eagle is a large predatory bird, measuring about 60 to 75 centimeters in length and weighing between 2.5 and 4 kilograms. Its plumage is dark brown with a distinctive white head and a hooked, powerful beak. Young birds have a different appearance, with dark brown feathers on the head and body, and less hooked beak than adults.

These eagles are known for their territorial behavior and impressive aerial acrobatics, which include rapid descents and spectacular dives. They are also efficient predators, capable of grabbing fish weighing up to 2 kilograms in flight or while diving into the water.

The African fish eagle is an endangered species due to the destruction of its natural habitat, pollution of wetlands and illegal hunting for the pet trade. Conservation efforts for this species include protecting natural habitats and raising public awareness of fish eagle conservation issues.

African swift (Apus barbatus)

The swift is a migratory bird present in sub-Saharan Africa, including the Republic of Congo. It is a medium-sized bird, measuring about 17 to 19 centimeters in length and weighing between 35 and 55 grams. Its plumage is mainly black, with green highlights on the upper parts of the body.

African Swift feeds mainly on insects, which it catches in flight. It spends most of its life in flight, landing only to nest and sleep. They are very fast birds, capable of flying at speeds of up to 120 km/h.

These birds are known for their gregarious behavior, with large flocks of kingfishers flying in formation. They often nest in rocky areas, cliffs and buildings, constructing their nest from materials such as mud, twigs and feathers.

The African swift is considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), as it has a wide geographic distribution and a stable population. However, the degradation of the natural habitat, pollution and collisions with buildings can threaten the survival of this species.

Where to observ birds on safari cruises on the Congo and Sangha rivers?

Daily in groups of 8 people, passengers leave on motor tenders to explore the tributaries or land on dry land. Our ornithologist guide will take you to the best places to observe the birds of the Congo Basin. Each year, a special ornithologist cruise will be organised. Find out more about the Ducret Expeditions Congo cruise itinerary.


Bongo Congo

The Bongos

The bongos are a species of African antelope that live mainly in the tropical rainforests of central and western Africa. This antelope has a unique appearance with white stripes and spots on its reddish-brown coat, as well as spiral horns that can reach up to a meter in length.

The bongo is a solitary and inconspicuous animal, which moves slowly and silently through dense forests in search of food. They are primarily herbivorous, feeding on leaves, fruits and young shoots, and they are able to graze on tall plants thanks to their long, slender legs.

They are also known for their territorial behavior and aggression towards other males. Males defend their territory by using their horns to fight other males seeking to invade their territory or take their place. However, they are also vulnerable to predators such as leopards, lions and hyenas.

Unfortunately, bongo populations are threatened by habitat loss due to deforestation, as well as by hunting for their meat and horns. Bongos are also vulnerable to disease and parasites, which has contributed to their declining population in the wild.

Conservation programs have been put in place to help protect bongo populations and their habitat. Zoos around the world also participate in captive breeding programs to help maintain a viable captive population of this rare and beautiful species

In what environment do they live?

Bongos live mainly in the tropical rainforests of Central and West Africa. They can be found in countries such as Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Liberia.

These antelopes have a preference for dense forest areas, where they can find dense ground cover to hide and feed. They move slowly and silently through the forest, avoiding open areas and preferring shaded areas and streams.

Bongos need intact forest habitat for their survival, as they depend on dense vegetation for food and protection from predators. However, deforestation and habitat fragmentation have reduced bongo populations in many parts of their natural range.

Efforts are underway to protect rainforests and bongo habitat, as well as to study and monitor populations of this endangered species. Zoos and captive conservation facilities also play an important role in bongo preservation, participating in captive breeding programs to maintain a viable captive population of this rare and fascinating species.

When to observe bongos?

They are discreet and shy animals that are generally difficult to observe in the wild. Since they prefer dense forest areas, they are often hidden under ground cover and only come out during periods of low light or at night.

However, it is possible to observe bongos in protected areas, national parks or nature reserves that are home to bongo populations. These areas provide suitable habitat for bongos and may provide opportunities for wildlife viewing.

In some Central and West African countries, bush safaris are offered to observe wildlife, including bongos. These safaris are usually led by experienced guides who know the habits and behaviors of animals in their natural habitat.

It is important to note that the conservation of bongos is crucial to preserve this rare and magnificent species. It is therefore essential not to disturb wild populations of bongos by hunting them or disturbing their natural habitat. Bongo sightings should be done responsibly, respecting the rules and regulations of protected areas and avoiding any disturbance or impact on wildlife.

How do they feed?

Bongos are herbivores and feed mainly on leaves, young shoots, fruits, fungi and mosses. They have a preference for plants rich in protein and minerals, such as woody plants, shrubs and vines.

They have a particular anatomical adaptation for their diet. Their tongue is very long, allowing them to reach high up leaves, while their neck is long and flexible, allowing them to feed on the leaves and branches of trees.

They are also known for their ability to consume poisonous plants which are avoided by other herbivores. This adaptation is possible thanks to their long digestive tract, which allows them to break down and absorb nutrients from poisonous plants.

However, food availability can vary greatly with seasons and climatic conditions, and bongos may have to move to find food. Bongos are animals that can travel great distances to find food sources, which can lead them to cross open areas where they are more vulnerable to predators.

The conservation of rainforests is therefore crucial to ensure the continued availability of adequate food for bongos and other animals that depend on this forest habitat.

What are their characteristics?

Bongos are large antelopes that are distinguished by their unique coat and particular morphology. Here are some of their main features:

Size and weight: they are the largest forest antelopes, with a height of up to 1.4 meters at the withers for males and a weight of 250 to 400 kg. The females are a little smaller than the males.

Coat: The coat is very distinctive, with white and black stripes on a red-brown background. This coloration serves as camouflage in their dense forest habitat. The stripes of the bongos are also very useful for identifying them individually.

Morphology: Bongos have long, slender legs, which allow them to move easily in the dense forest and jump over obstacles. Their necks are long and flexible, which allows them to reach leaves and branches high up. They also have spiral horns in both sexes, with the horns of males being longer and thicker than those of females.

Behaviour: Bongos are shy and solitary animals, although females may gather in small groups with their young. They are mainly active in the early morning and late evening, and spend most of the day resting and feeding. Bongos are also known for their ability to hide and stay still for long periods of time, which makes them difficult to spot in the wild.

Geographical distribution: They are present in Central and West Africa, inhabiting the dense and humid forests of the region. They are considered an endangered species due to habitat loss and overhunting.

How do they communicate?

Bongos have a sophisticated communication system, although they are rather solitary and inconspicuous animals. They use visual and sound signals to communicate with each other, in particular to establish their territory and to signal themselves in case of danger.

Males mainly use sound signals to communicate with other males and to establish their territory. They produce growls, proboscis and hisses to mark their presence and warn other males not to approach. Females also use sound signals to communicate with their young and to warn other bongos of the presence of predators.

Bongos also use visual cues to communicate, including their striped coat which serves as camouflage in their dense forest habitat. They may also wave their tails to indicate their state of mind, or raise the hair on their backs to appear larger and more threatening.

Finally, they also use their sense of smell to communicate, especially to mark their territory with scent glands located on their head and feet.

Although bongos are rather discreet animals, their sophisticated communication system allows them to stay in contact with other members of their social group and to signal potential dangers.


Bongos have a year-round breeding season, but they tend to breed more during the rainy season. Males and females reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years of age.

Male seek to attract females by producing loud grunts and sounds, rubbing against trees or bushes, and urinating on vegetation to mark their territory. Males generally must establish dominance over other males before they can mate with females.

When a male and female meet, they sniff and lick each other. The gestation of bongos lasts about 9 months, after which the female gives birth to a single young, which weighs about 20 kg at birth. Females raise their young alone, without the help of the male, and nurse their young for about 6 months. Little bongos can stand and start walking soon after birth, but they remain dependent on their mother for several months.

Bongos are very secretive and shy animals, which makes it difficult to observe their reproductive behavior in the wild. In captivity, however, bongos have been successfully bred in captive breeding programs to help increase the population of this endangered species.

Where can we observe the Bongos during the Ducret Expeditions?

Dzanga Bai within Dzanga Sangha National Park attracts large herds of bongos throughout the year and is certainly the best place to view bongos.

During Ducret Expeditions cruises, it is possible to add a day to travel to the Central African Republic and admire the rich fauna of the Baï de Dzanga Sangha.


Congo Basin forest, forêt du bassin du Congo

The Congo Basin forest

The Congo is the second largest river on Earth by volume, draining an area of 3.7 million square kilometers (1.4 million square miles) known as the Congo Basin. Much of the basin is covered in rich tropical rainforests and swamps. Together, these ecosystems make up the bulk of the Central African rainforest, which at 178 million hectares (2005) is the second largest rainforest in the world. A mosaic of forests, savannahs, swamps, rivers and flooded forests, the Congo Basin forest teems with life.

Endangered species, such as forest elephants, chimpanzees, bonobos, and lowland and mountain gorillas inhabit these lush forests. For over 50,000 years, the Congo Basin has provided food, water and shelter to over 75 million people. Nearly 150 distinct ethnic groups live together. Among them, the indigenous peoples, such as the Ba’Aka who are the most illustrious representatives of an ancestral way of life of hunter-gatherers whose survival is intimately linked to the forest.

A forest straddling the country

While nine countries (Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia) have part of their territory in the Congo Basin, six countries with extensive forest cover are generally associated with the Congo rainforest: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. (Technically, most of Gabon and parts of the Republic of the Congo lie within the Ogoué River Basin, while much of Cameroon lies within the Sangha River Basin). Of these six countries, the DRC contains the largest area of tropical forest, with 107 million hectares, representing 60 percent of the forest cover of the Central African lowlands.

Globally significant biodiversity

The Congo basin forest includes more than 600 species of trees, 10,000 species of tropical plants, 30% of which are unique to the region, 400 species of mammals, 1,000 species of birds and 700 species of fish. Some of its most famous residents include forest elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, bongos, okapis (small forest giraffes), leopards, hippos and lions. These species play an important role in shaping the character of their forest habitat. For example, researchers found that forests in Central Africa generally have taller trees but a lower density of small trees than forests in the Amazon or Borneo. The reason for this is that elephants, gorillas and large herbivores keep the density of small trees very low through predation, reducing competition for large trees. But in areas where these animals have been decimated by hunting, forests tend to be shorter and denser with more small trees. It is therefore not surprising that the ancient forests of Central Africa store huge volumes of carbon in their vegetation and tree trunks (39 billion tones, according to a 2012 study), serving as an important buffer against the climate change.

Congo Basin forest climat

The tropical climate is characterized by heavy rainfall, high temperatures and high humidity. The Republic of Congo is crossed by the equator. In the north, the dry season extends from November to March and the rainy season from April to October, while in the south it is the reverse. On both sides of the equator local climates exist with two dry seasons and two wet seasons. Annual precipitation is abundant throughout the country, but seasonal and regional variations are significant. Rainfall averages more than 1,200 mm per year, and exceeds 2,000 mm in some areas. Temperatures are relatively stable, with little variation between seasons, between 20 and 30 degrees throughout the year. Between day and night, the temperature difference is on average around 15°C. The average daily humidity is around 80%.

Ethnic groups in the Republic of Congo

About half of the inhabitants of the Congo identify with the Kongo peoples, whose main subgroups include the Sundi, Kongo, Lali, Kougni, Bembe, Kamba, Dondo, Vili and Yombe. The Ubangi peoples include the Makoua, Kouyou, Mboshi, Likouala, Ngala and Bonga. The Téké and the Sangha, or « Gabonese Bantu », are also divided into subgroups. The Pygmies live in small groups, usually as clients of the surrounding agricultural populations. Of the Europeans who remained in the Congo before the civil war of the late 1990s – many of whom were French and resided in major cities – only a fraction remains.

Threats to the Congo basin rainforest

Central Africa’s rate of deforestation between 1990 and 2010 was the lowest of any major forest region in the world. However, deforestation has tended to increase during the 2010s with the expansion of industrial logging and the large-scale conversion of forests to agricultural land. In contrast, over the past 30 years, small-scale subsistence agriculture, land clearing for charcoal and firewood, urban expansion and mining have been the main drivers of deforestation. The opening of logging roads has given access to smallholders clearing land for agriculture while opening access to poachers.

The bushmeat trade is the main cause of wildlife extinction today. Monkeys and antelopes are easy targets, other protected species such as gorillas, bonobos, pangolins or elephants are also targeted. In less than a decade, 60% of the region’s forest elephant population has disappeared. In many countries, such as Congo Brazzaville, the work of eco-guards has greatly slowed down this phenomenon.

The greatest threats in the future for the Congo basin forest come from industrial plantations, in particular that of palm oil, rubber or sugar.


Pangolin Congo

Pangolins in the Congo

Pangolins are toothless mammals covered in scales that feed mainly on insects. They are often called « scaly anteaters » because of their appearance and diet. The eight species of pangolins are distributed in Asia and Africa, particularly in the forests of the Republic of Congo.

Pangolins are threatened by loss of their natural habitat and illegal hunting for their meat and scales, which are considered traditional medicine in some Asian cultures. Because of this demand, they fall prey to a very lucrative illegal trade.

Pangolins are currently considered one of the most trafficked animals in the world, with thousands captured and sold each year. In response to this threat, many organizations are working to protect pangolins by monitoring their habitat, combating illegal trade, and raising awareness of their plight.

In 2016, all pangolin species were classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Urgent conservation measures are needed to protect these fascinating animals that are essential to their ecosystem.

What are the eight species of pangolins?

There are eight species of pangolins, all of which fall into two different genera.

The genus Manis includes four species: The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla); The Himalayan pangolin (Manis crassicaudata); The Javan pangolin (Manis javanica); The Philippine pangolin (Manis culionensis).

The genus Phataginus includes four species: The short-tailed pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis); Temminck’s pangolin (Phataginus tetradactyla); The West African pangolin (Phataginus africanus); The giant pangolin (Smutsia gigantea) – formerly called the long-tailed pangolin

All pangolin species are endangered due to the destruction of their natural habitat and illegal hunting for their meat and scales, which are used in traditional Asian medicine. The protection of pangolins has therefore become a major concern for the conservation of biodiversity.

All pangolin species are endangered due to the destruction of their natural habitat and illegal hunting for their meat and scales, which are used in traditional Asian medicine. The protection of pangolins has therefore become a major concern for the conservation of biodiversity.


Where do they live?

They tend to live in forested habitats, but they can also be found in other habitats, such as savannahs and grasslands. Pangolins are generally nocturnal and solitary, although they can sometimes be seen in small groups.

When can we observe it?

They are nocturnal animals and therefore tend to be more active at night. This makes them difficult for most people to observe. Additionally, due to their increasingly endangered status, it is increasingly rare to see pangolins in the wild.

However, pangolins can be seen in some areas of Africa and Asia where they are protected in nature reserves or national parks. In these areas, visitors may have the opportunity to see pangolins in their natural habitat, often accompanied by an experienced guide or ranger to help them find them.

It is important to note that even in these protected areas, observing pangolins can be difficult as they are very shy and often hide during the day. Additionally, it is important to follow conservation rules in place to protect these animals, which may include restrictions on viewing and direct contact with pangolins.

How do pangolins feed?

They are insectivorous animals and feed mainly on ants and termites. They use their long sticky tongue to catch the insects, which are then eaten whole.

The pangolin has a unique structure in their body to facilitate their diet. Their stomachs are indeed equipped with very powerful muscles which allow them to grind insects into a soft porridge. They also have a very slow digestive system, which allows them to maximize the absorption of nutrients from their food.

Due to their specialized diet, they play an important role in ecosystems by regulating insect populations. However, the destruction of their natural habitat and illegal hunting threaten the survival of these animals, which can have negative consequences on the ecosystems in which they live.

What are the characteristics of the pangolin?

The pangolin is a toothless mammal covered in scales.

Here are some of their distinguishing features:

The pangolin has a body covered with keratinized scales, which are very similar to those of human fingernails or rhinoceros horns.

It has a long sticky tongue, which can reach up to 40 centimeters in length, which they use to catch ants and termites.

The pangolin has powerful claws on their front paws which allow them to dig into termite mounds and ant nests to grab their food.

It has a muscular prehensile tail, which allows them to cling to branches and protect themselves from predators.

Having weak vision, their sense of smell and hearing are highly developed to compensate.

It can roll up into a ball to protect itself in case of danger. Their keratinized scales give them excellent protection against predators.

It is a solitary and nocturnal animal.

Due to their unique appearance and specialized adaptations, the pangolin is among the most fascinating and remarkable animals on the planet.

How do pangolins communicate?

Pangolins communicate mainly through vocalizations and smells. Although they are usually solitary, they can sometimes make sounds to signal their presence to other pangolins.

They have anal glands that produce a scent substance, which is used to mark their territory and communicate with others. This substance is also used to ward off predators.

Mothers can communicate with their young by making soft sounds and using body movements to encourage them to follow.

Although communication is mainly based on olfactory and sound signals, recent studies have also shown that pangolins have a limited capacity for visual communication, using in particular posture and tail movement signals to communicate with other conspecifics.

How does it reproduce?

The pangolin reproduces sexually and females carry young in their uterus for about 3-5 months before giving birth.

It does not have a specific breeding season, but breeding can vary depending on food availability and environmental conditions. Female pangolins can give birth to one or two cubs at a time.

Small pangolins are born blind and without scales, and are completely dependent on their mother for food and protection. The young begin to develop their scales from the second week after birth.

The pangolin has slow reproduction and a long gestation period, low offspring and slow growth, which makes them vulnerable to hunting and destruction of their natural habitat. This vulnerability has contributed to their current increasingly threatened status and the need for conservation action to protect these unique animals.

How to observe pangolin during safari cruises in Congo?


Bonobos tracking

The Bonobo (Pan paniscus, Dwarf chimpanzee, Pygmy chimpanzee)

The Bonobo is a species of primate that lives in the equatorial forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are considered one of the closest species to humans, with striking similarities in their social behavior.

However, this species is in danger of extinction due to the destruction of their natural habitat, hunting and illegal trafficking.

Social behavior

Bonobos are known for their unique social organization, characterized by strong female leadership and peaceful conflict resolution. Unlike chimpanzees, which have a male-dominated social organization, Bonobos have a matriarchal social structure, with females being the central pillar of the community. They are also known for their sexual behavior, which is often used to ease tension and strengthen social bonds.


Scientists have established that Bonobos are the closest primates to humans. Between two humans, the genotypes are 99.9% similar, while the resemblance between the human and the bonobo would be 98.7%. About 5.1% of the human genome is genetically close to the bonobo genome.

Bonobos share many characteristics with chimpanzees, their cousin species, but they also exhibit unique traits that set them apart from other great apes.

Here are some of the main features:

Physical Appearance: They have a physical appearance similar to chimpanzees, with black fur and long, slender arms and legs. However, Bonobos are generally slimmer and more slender than chimpanzees, with a smaller head and more prominent eyes.

Size: The male measures in a standing position about 1.19 m for a weight ranging from 37 to 61 kg; the female measures 1.11 m for a weight ranging from 27 to 38 kg.

Diet: Bonobos are omnivorous primates, feeding mainly on fruits, leaves and other vegetation, but they also occasionally eat small animals such as insects and small mammals.

Habitat: living exclusively in the equatorial forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, they move in the trees in search of food and social partners.

Lifespan: Bonobos have an average lifespan of 40 to 50 years in captivity, but their lifespan in the wild is less well known.


Intelligence of bonobos

An American psychologist taught the use of 348 keyboard symbols to a 26-year-old male bonobo.

The symbols referred to familiar objects (yogurt, key, belly, ball…), favorite activities (chasing, tickling…) and even some concepts considered quite abstract (the present, good and evil…).

The psychologist claims he was able to understand up to 3,000 words in spoken English, in addition to the vocabulary on his keyboard. She adds that he can express himself vocally and respond appropriately to commands such as « put the soap in the water » or « carry this object ».


Bonobo reproduction is similar to that of other primates. Females reach sexual maturity around 8 or 9 years old, while males reach sexual maturity around 13 or 14 years old.

The bonobo has menstrual cycles, which last about 36 days. During the fertile period, the female can mate with several males.

Matings can occur in a variety of positions, including face-to-face and back-to-back. Females usually give birth to only one young at a time, after a gestation period of about 8 months. Mothers carry their young on their bellies for several months, feeding them breast milk. The little bonobos are very dependent on their mother for their survival, but the other members of the group can also help to take care of them.

The bonobo is a social and cooperative animal. Reproduction is an important part of their social life. Sexual relations are often used to strengthen social bonds, reduce tensions and resolve conflicts within the group. This special attitude towards sexuality is considered one of the unique characteristics of bonobos compared to other primates.

How do Bonobos communicate with each other?

They are known for their complex and sophisticated communication. They use a variety of visual, vocal and tactile signals to communicate with each other.

Here are some examples of communication modes used by bonobos:

Facial expressions: Bonobos can use facial expressions to express emotions such as joy, fear or anger. They may also use looks, smiles, or frowns to communicate with each other.

Vocalizations: Bonobos can make a wide variety of different sounds to communicate, including screams, moans, growls, and howls. Each sound has a different meaning and can be used to convey specific information to other party members.

Gestures: Bonobos can use gestures to communicate, such as pointing or waving their hands. They may also use more complex movements to indicate directions or to ask for help.

Physical contact: Bonobos are also known for their strong physical contact. They may touch, caress, hug, and shake hands to communicate affection or support.

Using these different modes of communication, bonobos are able to convey complex information about their emotional state, location, intentions and needs to other members of their group.


How to observe Bonobos?

Observing Bonobos in their natural habitat can be a fascinating experience, but it is important to do so responsibly and respectfully for the survival of the species. Here are a few tips:

Respect the distance: It is important to keep a respectful distance from the Bonobos to avoid disturbing their natural behavior. The recommended minimum distance is around 10 meters, although this may vary depending on the situation and the viewing area.

Be Quiet: Bonobos are noise sensitive and can be easily disturbed by loud voices or sudden noises. It is therefore important to remain silent during the observation.

Avoid feeding them as this can disrupt their natural diet. Also, Bonobos can become aggressive if they think you have food and you don’t give it to them.

Use binoculars or a camera to observe them from a distance without disturbing them. It is important not to use flash to take pictures, as this can disturb the Bonobos and their environment.

Bonobos are active during the day, so it’s usually easier to observe them during daylight hours. The best observation times are often in the morning, when the bonobos wake up.


Threats to Bonobos

They face many threats that endanger their existence. Deforestation, poaching and illegal trafficking for the sale of bushmeat or to be sold as pets are destructive practices for the species. The situation is aggravated by the civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has made it difficult to put in place effective protection measures for the Bonobos.

Actions for the conservation of Bonobos

Several organizations are committed to their protection. Sanctuaries have been created to accommodate orphaned or injured animals, to allow them to reintroduce themselves into their natural environment once they are able to survive on their own. Conservation efforts also include reforestation projects and raising awareness among local communities of the value of Bonobos and their habitat.

The Importance of Bonobo Conservation

The conservation of Bonobos is essential for the preservation of biodiversity and ecological balance in their natural habitat. As close to human primates, Bonobos are also important for scientific research, especially regarding the evolution of human society and social behavior. Finally, the conservation of Bonobos is also important for the preservation of the culture and traditions of the indigenous peoples who have lived in harmony with these primates for generations.

Tracking Bonobos on Congo cruises

During safari cruises on the Congo River organized by Ducret Expeditions, it is possible to spend a day in the Democratic Republic of Congo to track groups of regular Bonobos in connection with the Mbou-Mon-Tour pilot farm.

This possibility is open on certain dates. The boat will dock at dawn in Tshumbiri and passengers after an hour in Jeep will be able to follow three groups of Bonobos accustomed to the sites of Embirima, Lempu and Mpelu.


Gorilla in the expeditions ducret

Lowland gorillas in Congo forest : threatened species but still in large numbers in Congo Brazzaville

The western lowland gorilla is certainly the most numerous and widespread of all gorilla subspecies: the latest census reports a much larger population than expected. Despite everything, it remains a threatened space on which many pressures weigh. It is estimated that the gorilla population disappears at a rate of 2.7% per year and between 2005 and 2013, 19.4% of their population would have already disappeared. According to experts, this trend can be reversed if the right policies are put in place.

Inhabiting some of the densest and most remote rainforests in Africa, their numbers have often been underestimated. Significant populations still exist, including in isolated swamps and remote swamp forests in the Republic of Congo. A study carried out over 11 years on 59 sites in five countries was able to estimate in 2018 the number of western lowland gorillas at nearly 360,000 individuals. Previous estimates have been between 150,000 and 250,000 individuals. This population is distributed in the Congo Basin between Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea as well as in large areas in Gabon and the Republic of Congo. The latter alone would have nearly 50% of this population of great apes, 80% of which live outside protected areas.

What threats to the species?

Poaching remains the main threat to their survival, ahead of disease and the loss of their natural habitat. More efforts to combat poaching, both inside and outside protected areas, better land use planning and the development of tourism could allow a better valuation of the species and help in the preservation of the natural habitat of these animals.

Western lowland gorillas: how to identify them?

Western lowland gorillas are distinguished from other gorilla subspecies by their slightly smaller size. They can measure up to 1.70 meters for males and 1.3 meters for females and weigh up to 180 kg for males and 70 kg for females. Their coat is gray-brown and their orange-red forehead. The males have a silver coat from the nape to the rump down to the hair of the foot. They have a larger skull with more pronounced brow ridges and smaller ears than its eastern cousin.

Humans, chimpanzees, orangutans, bonobos and western lowland gorillas: who is man's closest cousin?

An international team of several dozen biologists and geneticists have compared the genomes of four modern « great apes », rare survivors of the great family of Hominids. Chimpanzees are undoubtedly the closest relatives of humans, with 96% of common genes. The results of this study published in 2012 in the British journal Nature proves that this is certainly true according to the analyses, but only in 70% of cases. In fact, 15% of the human genome is closer to that of the gorilla than that of the chimpanzee. And 15% of the chimpanzee’s genome is in turn closer to that of the gorilla than to that of man. According to the calculations of the international team, gorillas would have diverged from humans and chimpanzees here about 10 million years, the separation between the human species and that of chimpanzees dating back to some 6 million years.

What do gorillas eat?

Like most other primates, gorillas are vegetarians but also insectivores. They spend a good part of their day feeding, moving around in search of berries, stems, leaves, bark or fruit that they find in the forest. It is not uncommon to see them climb trees to grab the fruits they love. In swamps or clearings, they feed on mineral-rich aquatic plants. Insects like termites and ants are also its usual diet. The gorilla eats almost 20 kg of food every day.

How do western lowland gorilla groups live?

Western lowland gorillas are very gregarious animals living in mixed hierarchical groups comprising 2 to 20 individuals (on average 8). The group is structured around a dominant silverback, which plays the role of protector and parent. Several females and their young make up the group. Sometimes non-dominant males also join the group. The dominant is however the only male in the group able to mate. Females can also leave the group if they consider that the silverback is not fulfilling its function. Young males also sometimes form separate groups of bachelors, waiting to be able to form a group in their turn.

The groups live on an area of ​​more or less 30km². On the same area can live several groups. However, it happens to see two silverbacks fighting to recover part of the harem. When retrieving females, the silverback will often kill the young to breed more quickly with new females. After that, some females may decide to leave the group and start a new group with a new dominant, previously unmarried male.

It is often the female who ensures the formation of the young for several years. She will teach him how to eat, how to behave and how to survive. The father often participates very little in the education of the young, but protects them in case of attack. However, it is not uncommon to see the silverback spending long hours with the little ones.

Gorillas have a low reproductive rate. Sexual maturity for males is around 18 years and 11 years for females. The period between two pregnancies can last 5 or 6 years. Young western lowland gorillas are weaned from breast milk at around 4 years of age, which is very late compared to other mammals. The lifespan in the wild is 35-40 years. Their main adversary, in addition to the diseases that affect the youngest more, is the leopard which prowls in the tropical forests.

Gorillas communicate with each other using cries, facial expressions and attitudes. In case of disturbance or aggression, the male tries to impress the intruder by shouting and hitting his chest with his fists. In the extreme case, he may run towards the intruder and bite him. This is what scientists can experience during the process of habituation of a group to the human presence. The process can last between 3 and 5 years with daily visits.

How to observe gorillas in the Republic of Congo?

Congo Brazzaville is the country with the highest number of western lowland gorillas. About 200,000. For the past thirty years, scientists have established camps in different reserves to conduct research on this great primate from Central Africa.

It is naturally possible to come across it in the forest, especially in the Sangha. To observe them closely, on the other hand, you have to go to the large parks such as the Nouabalé-Ndoki Park, where three groups are followed by scientists and thus accustomed to the human presence.

During the cruises that we offer in the heart of the tropical forest, we go to the Mondika scientific camp in the Nouabalé-Ndoki Park, where it is possible to track one of the three clans in a small group of four people. For about an hour, it will be possible to observe the group of gorillas at a distance of 7 to 10 meters.