Eastern Zaïre lowlands

Country/Territory Congo, The Democratic Republic of the,Uganda
Area 75,000 km2
Altitude 700 - 1800m
Priority high
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge poor

General characteristics

The Lower Guinea forest is one of the world's great lowland rain forests, and together with the Upper Guinea forest (EBA 084) constitutes the Guineo-Congolian Region of White (1983). The Eastern Zaïre lowlands EBA lies at the eastern edge of the Lower Guinea forest, in the Haut-Zaïre and Kivu regions of eastern Zaïre and the extreme west of Uganda, and is adjacent to the western edge of the Albertine Rift mountains (EBA 106). The restricted-range birds of this EBA occur in lowland rain forest, but also range up into transitional forest, the forest type found between lowland and montane forest on the lower slopes of the mountains between approximately 1,000 and 1,750 m (White 1983). Several of the restricted-range species from the Albertine Rift mountains EBA also occur in transitional forest, so there is some altitudinal overlap between the two EBAs. These two EBAs together constitute the Central Refugium, one of Africa's major centres of endemism and species richness for forest animals and plants, as it is one of the places where forest is believed to have survived during the driest periods of the Pleistocene (Hamilton 1981, Prigogine 1985, Stuart 1985).

Restricted-range species

The distributions of the restricted-range species are incompletely known. Most records of these birds come from the Semliki and Ituri forests and the foothills of the Itombwe mountains, but it is likely that most of them also occur in the intervening region. There is also an apparently disjunct record of Phyllastrephus lorenzi from Bambesa, well to the north-west of the rest of the EBA. Ploceus flavipes is only known from the Ituri forest in Zaïre, and Ploceus aureonucha from here and by a recent sighting from Irangi Forest Reserve (B. W. Finch in litt. 1993). Schoutedenapus schoutedeni is only known from five records from the foothills of the Itombwe mountains. Two of the restricted-range species have been recorded in Uganda, Zoothera oberlaenderi in Semliki and Bwindi (Impenetrable) forests, and Phyllastrephus lorenzi from Ntandi in Semliki forest (Friedmann and Williams 1968, Butynski and Kalina 1993, M. Carswell in litt. 1993).

Hall's Greenbul Andropadus hallae, described from a single specimen collected in lowland forest in this EBA (Prigogine 1972), was treated as a full species by Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993), but is here considered to be a form of the widespread Little Greenbul A. virens, following Dowsett and Dowsett-Lemaire (1993).

Species IUCN Category
(Schoutedenapus schoutedeni) NR
Bedford's Paradise-flycatcher (Terpsiphone bedfordi) NT
Sassi's Olive Greenbul (Phyllastrephus lorenzi) LC
Oberländer's Ground-thrush (Geokichla oberlaenderi) NT
Golden-naped Weaver (Ploceus aureonucha) EN
Yellow-legged Weaver (Ploceus flavipes) VU

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
CD008 Mount Hoyo Reserve Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
CD009 Okapi Faunal Reserve Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
CD012 Forests west of Lake Edward Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
CD013 Kahuzi-Biega National Park Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
CD014 Itombwe Mountains Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
UG004 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Uganda
UG009 Semliki National Park Uganda

Threat and conservation

The main threat to the EBA is deforestation (Hamilton 1984, Sayer et al. 1992), mainly for cultivation, and there is some localized forest loss as a result of gold-mining in Itombwe, around Maiko and possibly in other places (R. Beyers in litt. 1993). It is likely that the rate of deforestation has been increased recently by the effects of warfare (Kanyamibwa 1995). The three restricted-range birds with particularly small ranges are threatened because of their vulnerability to habitat loss. More widespread threatened forest birds which occur in this EBA are Congo Peacock Afropavo congensis and Turner's Eremomela Eremomela turneri (both classified as Vulnerable); Nahan's Francolin Francolinus nahani (Data Deficient) also occurs.

There are several protected areas within this EBA (Howard 1991, IUCN 1992b). Part of the lowland Semliki forest is included in the Virunga National Park, but, although some forest remains, this part of the park has been devastated by human settlement (Stuart 1985), and the illegal growing of cocoa as an understorey species is leading to the replacement of forest by species-poor plantation (Howard 1991). This protected area is contiguous with the large Ituri forest, and could be extended to include its eastern part (Prigogine 1985). Another part of Ituri forest is now included in Okapi Faunal Reserve (Blom 1990). Other existing reserves which are likely to be important for the birds of the EBA are the western section of Kahuzi-Biega National Park, the eastern section of Maiko National Park, the lower forests on the western side of Mount Ruwenzori National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (I. S. Francis in litt. 1993) and Irangi Forest Reserve (R. Beyers in litt. 1993). The Itombwe mountains are currently unprotected, but the forests there apparently remain reasonably intact (Collar and Stuart 1988, Wilson and Catsis 1990).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Eastern Zaïre lowlands. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 23/01/2022.