Salonga is a huge area almost entirely covered with tropical moist forest. This largest rainforest park in the world encompasses a significant section of the central basin of the Congo river and is composed of two sectors, the northern (c.1,700,000 ha) and southern (c.1,900,000 ha), separated by a 45 km wide corridor. The boundaries of the park are mostly formed by the major rivers of the area which flow in parallel and are aligned south-east–north-west. The site, which is extremely isolated and only accessible by water, comprises mainly lowland rainforest, swamp-forests, riverine forests, and dry-land forest. There are some grassy clearings in the northern sector and patches of savanna of man-made origin in the extreme south. The landscape consists of plateaus and terraces varying in altitude from 350 m in the west to 700 m in the east, but most of the area is low-lying, swampy ground below 500 m. In places cliffs of up to 80 m border the rivers. The northern sector and the northernmost part of the southern sector are directly linked to the Congo river basin; the central part of the southern sector only indirectly, through the drainage basin of the Maï-Ndombe lake and, in the extreme south, by the Kasaï river basin. Although most of the former, scarce inhabitants have been relocated, some small settlements remain within the park. No tourist facilities are present and the development of tourism is seriously hampered by the remoteness of the site. Average annual rainfall varies between 2,000 mm in the north (Boende) to 1,700 mm in the south (Lukenie); rainfall is largely constant throughout the year, with a slight decrease in June–August.
See Box and Table 3 for key species. There are few data, but Afropavo congensis is known to occur.
Non-bird biodiversity: No systematic survey has been undertaken. Pan paniscus (EN) is known to occur. Other mammals of global conservation concern include Lophocebus aterrimus (LR/nt) (probably endemic to the left bank of the Congo river), Loxodonta africana (EN), Tragelaphus spekii (LR/nt) and Hyemoschus aquaticus (DD).
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Salonga was established as a National Park in 1970 and declared a World Heritage Site in 1984. It is managed by ICCN and is one of the sites included in the regional ‘Conservation et Utilisation Rationelle des Ecosystèmes Forestiers en Afrique Centrale’ (ECOFAC) project, financed by the European Union. Despite relatively low population pressures and difficulties of access, heavy poaching takes place. Elephant fall victim to organized groups of heavily armed poachers coming from distant locations, especially Mbandaka. There are territorial claims from local people. In the south, forest exploitation reaches the park borders and may in future threaten its integrity. Periodic grassland fires in the south also threaten the forest and there is a minor threat from firewood-collection.