Friday, January 06, 2006

African Birding - Democratic Republic of the Congo

This country has had a sad recent history starting with problems of the Belgian colony followed by the kleptocracy of Mobutu Sese-Seko when it was called Zaire and the most recent wars starting in1998. The International Rescue Committee has named the conflict the worst humanitarian disaster since World War II and claim that over 4 million people have died.

Despite its overwhelming human problems it is a country rich in natural wonders and cultural heritage from the volcanic Virunga Mountains to the Pygmy Hunters of the Ituri Forest to the great Congo Forests. Hopefully the people of the DRC will emerge from their struggles to once again enjoy life in their rich and beautiful nation.

In the mid 1990's Tommy Pedersen, a Norwegian pilot and birder flew airliners around Zaire. He now flies for Emirates Air. His website documents some of the 1140 species of birds found in the DRC including the endemic Congo Peacock (Afropavo) and the Congo Bay Owl.

The most famous mammals of the DRC have to be the Gorilla, both Lowland and Mountain subspecies. Also the fascinating Okapi, the Giraffe's only living relative and one of the last large mammals discovered in Africa.

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