Salonga National Park is a national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo located in the Congo River basin.
It is Africa’s largest tropical rainforest reserve covering about 36,000 km2 or 3,600,000 hectares (8,900,000 acres). It extends into the provinces of Mai Ndombe, Equateur, Kasaï and Sankuru.
The park is in an area of pristine rainforest about halfway between Kinshasa, the capital, and Kisangani. There are no roads and most of the park is accessible only by river.
Visit Nyiragongo is the only operator and logistics company currently organizing overwater transport from the Congo River into the Salonga Park via minor rivers.
The southern region inhabited by the Iyaelima people is accessible via the Lokoro River, which flows through the center and northern parts of the park, and the Lula River in the south.
The Salonga National Park was established as the Tshuapa National Park in 1956, and gained its present boundaries with a 1970 presidential decree by President Mobutu Sese Seko.
It was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Due to the civil war in the eastern half of the country, it was added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1999.
The park is co-managed by the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature and the World Wide Fund for Nature since 2015.
Extensive consultation is ongoing, with the two main populations living within the park; the Iyaelima, the last remaining residents of the park and the Kitawalistes, a religious sect who installed them-self in the park just after its creation.
An intense collaboration exists between the park guards and the Iyaelima, as Iyaelima villages are used as guard posts. It is known that bonobo densities are highest around Iyaelima village which shows that they cause no threat to the park’s emblematic species.
Animals With in the Park
Animals in the park include bonobos, Dryas monkeys, Thollon’s red colobus, Congo peacock, leopards, forest elephants, and African slender-snouted crocodiles.
Other animals present include the long-tailed pangolin, giant pangolin, tree pangolin, Angolan slender mongoose, aquatic genet, hippopotamus, the African golden cat, bushpig, bongo, yellow-backed duiker, sitatunga, okapi, bushbuck, water chevrotain and forest buffalo.
There are many birds present and some of the larger ones are the cattle egret, black stork and yellow-billed stork. Some of its species are endemic to the country, and many are of high conservation concern.
The southern region has been the location for studies of bonobos in the wild. There are much higher populations of bonobos near the Iyaelima settlements than elsewhere in the park, apparently because the Iyaelima do not harm them and are playing a strong role in their conservation.