What Animals Live in the Congo Basin?

Instructor: Amy C. Evans

Amy has a BA/MA Criminal Justice. Worked with youth for over 20 years in academic settings. Avid reader, history and mystery lover.

In this lesson, we will discuss some of the animals that call the Congo Basin home. We will take a look at mammals, reptiles, birds, and aquatic wildlife to try and get a holistic picture of the biodiversity of this ecosystem.

The Congo Basin

What comes to mind when you hear the name Congo? If you are thinking of the film ''Congo'', you are probably correct in the geographical location of this region, but not so much in the nature of its wildlife. The Congo Basin is located on the continent of Africa and is home to the second-largest rainforest on Earth. Rainforests, however, are not the only biome that exists in the Congo Basin, which also includes grasslands called savannas, as well as swampland, and aquatic environments.

The Congo Basin is a biodiverse region that straddles the Equator near the center of the continent and it takes up portions of many countries including, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Zambia, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic. The Congo is teeming with life, but unlike the aforementioned movie, you don't need to worry, as far as we know, about killer guardian gorillas. Let's take a look at some of the things we do know about the animals that live in the Congo Basin.


Mammals in the Congo Basin abound, with at least 400 different species. Some mammals are iconic; three of the four species of the gentle giants known as the great apes live in this vast wilderness (chimpanzees, bonobos, and mountain gorillas).

Other species of mammals in the Congo Basin include hippopotamus, okapis (related to the giraffe), bongos, (a species of antelope), Grimm's duikers (species of antelope), and the African forest buffalo. Where there are antelope and other prey animals, you will also find predators, such as cheetahs, lions, leopards, and spotted hyenas.

More mammals that can be seen in the Congo Basin include:

  • Forest elephants
  • African palm civets (small nocturnal cat)
  • Mandrills (a large monkey with a colorful face)
  • Red colobus monkey
  • Pangolins (a scaled mammal that is in high demand in the illegal wildlife trade)
  • Bush babies (prosimians and earliest species of primates)



Reptiles that live in the Congo Basin vary from the poisonous and intimidating to the docile and nonthreatening. Here are some examples of reptiles that you may encounter or want to avoid, on a trip to the Congo Basin.

  • Pythons: Constrictor, nonvenomous snake
  • Green and black mambas: Venomous snake
  • African slender snout crocodiles
  • Puff adders: Venomous snake
  • Forest-hinge-back tortoise
  • African black iguana
  • Chameleons

African Rock Python


Some of the amphibians that you might run into in the Congo Basin include the following:

  • African painted frog
  • Schmidt's snouted frog
  • Bushoho frog
  • Channing's toad


The Congo Basin is rich in avian life with thousands of species. Examples of birds that inhabit the Congo Basin are:

  • Congo serpent eagle
  • Guinea fowl
  • Grey African parrots
  • Red-fronted parrots
  • Common buzzard
  • Black-casqued hornbill

Black-casqued hornbill

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