The Cuvette Centrale is a region within the Democratic Republic of the Congo that is bounded by the Congo river in the north, east and west. In the south it is bounded by the Kasai river and further east by the border between rainforest and savannah. It includes an area of approximately 800 000 km2. Its major part consists of a flat basin less than 500 m above sea level with the deepest parts in the west less than 350 m above sea level. In the south-east the landscape becomes more hilly. Here, the highest points within the water divide of the rivers Lomami, Tshuapa, Lukenie (Katako Kombe) or Lukenie Lokoro reach heights of 700 m above sea level. It is worth mentioning that the Cuvette Centrale is congruent with the spreading area of the Bonobo.
The Cuvette Centrale is in the center of the African forest and is part of two by the WWF defined ecoregions Central Congolian lowland forests and Eastern Congolian swamp forests.
In comparison to other regions of the Congo basin both ecoregions are presumed to be less diverse of both species and endemic species. Some researchers attribute this to the assumption that the forest had disappaered during the last glaciation. We do not agree with this opinion. If both ecoregions are combined, many endemic species are found, especially within the primates.
This combination seems to be well-founded as terra firma forests and swamp forests can be found in both ecoregions. They only differ in the percentage of land they cover within the respective ecosystem. This is also confirmed by a study of the area between the rivers Lomako und Yekokora.
In comparison to other regions within the Congo basin, the Cuvette Centrale is only very rudimentarily investigated.
- it was not known until the mid 90s whether Bonobos occur in the Salonga National Park (33 000 sqare kms) or not. Today it is estimated that the population consists of around 15000 animals.
- 50% of the frog species in one area at the south bank of the Congo river belonged to species which according to the distribution map could not belong there
- a new primate species 'Lesula' was discovered between the rivers Tshuapa and Lomami in the year 2008
- the existence of the Okapis at the left bank of the Congo river could not be confirmed before 2007
- the existence of the blue guenon at the left bank of the Lomami was a big surprise in the year 2007
- a new genus of catfish was discovered in the Salonga National Park
This will be not the end of the list. With the interest for the Bonobos the interest for their natural environment increased as well. And new spectacular discoveries occurred soon after that.
© Kim Kjerstedt