The Ituri Forest is possibly the largest moist forest remaining in Africa and is exceptionally valuable for its populations of large mammals.
The Okapi Wildlife Reserve occupies about one-fifth of the Ituri forest in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo River basin, of which the reserve and forest are a part, is one of the largest drainage systems in Africa. The reserve contains threatened species of primates and birds and about 5,000 of the estimated 30,000 okapis surviving in the wild. It also has some dramatic scenery, including waterfalls on the Ituri and Epulu rivers. The reserve is inhabited by traditional nomadic pygmy Mbuti and Efe hunters.
Okapi Wildlife Reserve contains flora of outstanding diversity and provides refuge to numerous endemic and threatened species, including one-sixth of the existing Okapi population. The Reserve protects one-fifth of the Ituri forest, a Pleistocene refuge dominated by dense evergreen Mbau and humid semi-evergreen forests, combined with swamp forests that grow alongside the waterways, and clearings called locally edos and inselbergs.
The Reserve contains 101 mammal species and 376 species of documented birds. The population of the endemic species of Okapi), a forest giraffe, is estimated at 5,000 individuals. Among the endemic mammals of the forest in the north-east of the DRC identified in the Reserve, are the aquatic genet and the giant genet. The Reserve provides refuge to 17 species of primates (including 13 diurnal and 4 nocturnal), the highest number for an African forest, including 7,500 chimpanzees.
The Reserve also contains one of the most diverse populations of forest ungulates with 14 species, including six types of cephalous. It also provides refuge to the largest population of forest elephants still present in eastern DRC, estimated at 7,500 individuals, and it is important for the conservation of other forest species such as the bongo, the dwarf antelope the water chevrotain, the forest buffalo, and the giant forest hog. It is also documented as one of the most important protected areas in Africa for the conservation of birds, with the presence of numerous emblematic species such as the Congo Peafowl as well as numerous endemic species in eastern DRC.