The Democratic Republic of the Congo is party to a number of international treaties including Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94 and Wetlands. Environmental issues are common with many other countries in Africa and include poaching which threatens wildlife populations, water pollution, deforestation (refugees are responsible for significant deforestation), soil erosion and mineral extraction.
In 1996, the first major biological surveys in the Itombwe Massif in over 30 years revealed that significant areas of natural habitat and remnant faunal populations remained but that these are subject to ongoing degradation and over-exploitation. At least 10 areas of Gorilla gorilla graueri occurrence, including eight of 17 areas identified during the first survey of the species in the massif in 1959, were found. 79 Gorilla nest sites were recorded and at least 860 Gorillas were estimated to occupy the massif. 56 species of mammal were recorded. Itombwe supports the highest number of bird species endemic to the Albertine Rift highlands. 22 of these species were recorded during the surveys, including the Congo Bay Owl Phodilus prigoginei, which was previously known from a single specimen collected in Itombwe nearly 50 years ago. No part of Itombwe is officially protected and conservation initiatives are needed urgently.
22nd March 2007: Rainforest protection - new fund to conserve Congo Basin
Britain is to give £50m towards helping to save the second largest rainforest in the world, the Congo Basin in central Africa. In one of the Budget's most eye-catching and unusual items, Mr. Brown announced an £800m Environmental Transformation Fund, to help developing countries cope with environmental changes such as global warming - and the Congo forest will be the recipient of its first major grant.
The money will form the basis of a new Congo Basin rainforest conservation fund, to be set up under the aegis of the 10 African countries surrounding the great wilderness, which at 700,000 square miles is twice the size of France. "Fifty million local people rely on the tropical rainforest of the Congo Basin for food, shelter and their livelihoods, while the world relies on it and other rainforests as an ecological handbrake on our rapidly changing climate", said the International Development Secretary, Hilary Benn. "Deforestation is a serious problem, with nearly 6,000 square miles being destroyed every year."
"The UK's initial contribution of £50m to this African initiative...will help empower local people to live and work in the forest, while helping to prevent the double tragedy for them that deforestation would bring."