The Congo Rainforest, sometimes called the "Congo basin rainforest," is a 1.5 million square mile rainforest located in the Congo Basin in central Africa. It is the world's second largest rainforest -- only the Amazon Rainforest is larger. 18% of the world's total rainforest is found here. Making up over 70% of Africa's plant cover, about two-thirds of the Congo Rainforest is in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly known as Zaire), but large areas are also located in Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic and the Republic of Congo. The Congo Rainforest was called "the heart of darkness" by Joseph Conrad, to highlight its dangerous and remote nature.
About 60 million people in central Africa have a close relationship with the rainforest, and some of them depend on it for food, shelter, and medicine. Like other rainforests, the Congo Rainforest is a biodiversity hotspot, inhabited by forest elephants, hippopotami, three species of great ape (gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos), civets, the bongo (an antelope), duikers (another antelope), the Hartebeest (antelope), the Greater Kudu (a large antelope), the Handsome Francolin (an elusive bird), the Marsh Mongoose, lions, giraffes, the giant forest hog, the Golden Jackal, and many animals found nowhere else, including the okapi, white rhino, and the Congo peacock. The natural wonders are so rich that five national parks in the Congo Rainforest are listed as UN World Heritage Sites. In total, the rainforest has more than 11,000 species of plants, 450 mammals, 1,150 birds, 300 reptiles, and 200 amphibians.
The Congo Rainforest is crossed by the Congo River, a second longest river in Africa after the Nile, with an overall length of 4,700 km (2,922 miles). The flow volume is the second largest of any river in the world, only behind the Amazon River. The river has an upside-down U shape, curving north from the ocean then curving south at its midpoint. Between 1971 and 1997 the river was called the Zaire River. The Livingstone Falls, located near the mouth of the river, prevent sea access. Though technically rapids rather than a waterfall, if one accepts rapids as a waterfall, then the Livingstone Falls are the largest-volume waterfalls in the world. The falls are named after the famous British explorer David Livingstone, even though he never visited them.
The Congo Rainforest is also known for being one of the most dangerous places in the world. Like many African countries, most of the Congo basin countries are politically unstable, and the eastern Congo is known for having the highest rate of sexual brutality in the entire world. War is practically constant, and respect for women nearly non-existent. Like the Amazon Rainforest, the Congo Rainforest is also being deforested by timber companies. America and European countries have contributed billions of dollars to preserving the rainforest, but the impact of such efforts is questionable. If circumstances do not change, most of the rainforest could be destroyed within a century or less.