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Concept: Congo River


In June 2007, a previously undescribed monkey known locally as “lesula” was found in the forests of the middle Lomami Basin in central Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). We describe this new species as Cercopithecus lomamiensis sp. nov., and provide data on its distribution, morphology, genetics, ecology and behavior. C. lomamiensis is restricted to the lowland rain forests of central DRC between the middle Lomami and the upper Tshuapa Rivers. Morphological and molecular data confirm that C. lomamiensis is distinct from its nearest congener, C. hamlyni, from which it is separated geographically by both the Congo (Lualaba) and the Lomami Rivers. C. lomamiensis, like C. hamlyni, is semi-terrestrial with a diet containing terrestrial herbaceous vegetation. The discovery of C. lomamiensis highlights the biogeographic significance and importance for conservation of central Congo’s interfluvial TL2 region, defined from the upper Tshuapa River through the Lomami Basin to the Congo (Lualaba) River. The TL2 region has been found to contain a high diversity of anthropoid primates including three forms, in addition to C. lomamiensis, that are endemic to the area. We recommend the common name, lesula, for this new species, as it is the vernacular name used over most of its known range.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Ecology, Primate, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic, Rainforest, Central Africa, Congo River


Pygmy populations occupy a vast territory extending west-to-east along the central African belt from the Congo Basin to Lake Victoria. However, their numbers and actual distribution is not known precisely. Here, we undertake this task by using locational data and population sizes for an unprecedented number of known Pygmy camps and settlements (n = 654) in five of the nine countries where currently distributed. With these data we develop spatial distribution models based on the favourability function, which distinguish areas with favourable environmental conditions from those less suitable for Pygmy presence. Highly favourable areas were significantly explained by presence of tropical forests, and by lower human pressure variables. For documented Pygmy settlements, we use the relationship between observed population sizes and predicted favourability values to estimate the total Pygmy population throughout Central Africa. We estimate that around 920,000 Pygmies (over 60% in DRC) is possible within favourable forest areas in Central Africa. We argue that fragmentation of the existing Pygmy populations, alongside pressure from extractive industries and sometimes conflict with conservation areas, endanger their future. There is an urgent need to inform policies that can mitigate against future external threats to these indigenous peoples' culture and lifestyles.

Concepts: Africa, Forest, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Central African Republic, Central Africa, Congo River, Congo


The African elephant consists of forest and savanna subspecies. Both subspecies are highly endangered due to severe poaching and habitat loss, and knowledge of their population structure is vital to their conservation. Previous studies have demonstrated marked genetic and morphological differences between forest and savanna elephants and despite extensive sampling, genetic evidence of hybridization between them has been restricted largely to a few hybrids in the Garamba region of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Here we present new genetic data on hybridization from previously unsampled areas of Africa. Novel statistical methods applied to these data identify 46 hybrid samples - many more than have been previously identified - only two of which are from the Garamba region. The remaining 44 are from three other geographically-distinct locations: a major hybrid zone along the border of the DRC and Uganda, a second potential hybrid zone in Central African Republic, and a smaller fraction of hybrids in the Pendjari-Arli complex of West Africa. Most of the hybrids show evidence of interbreeding over more than one generation, demonstrating that hybrids are fertile. Mitochondrial and Y chromosome data demonstrate that the hybridization is bidirectional, involving males and females from both subspecies. We hypothesize that the hybrid zones may have been facilitated by poaching and habitat modification. The localized geography and rarity of hybrid zones, their possible facilitation from human pressures, and the high divergence and genetic distinctness of forest and savanna elephants throughout their ranges, are consistent with calls for separate species classification. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Elephant, Sudan, Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Central Africa, Congo River


In October 1976, the government of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC]) asked what was then the U.S. Center for Disease Control, where we worked, to join an international group of scientists in elucidating and controlling an outbreak of an unusually lethal hemorrhagic fever. Just before we arrived in Zaire, our laboratory had used virologic and immunologic tests to identify the cause as a new filovirus, and we brought electron micrographs of the agent.(1) In Zaire, we became, respectively, the chief of surveillance, epidemiology, and control and the scientific director of the International Commission for the Investigation and . . .

Concepts: Epidemiology, United States, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic, Government, Viral hemorrhagic fever, Democracy, Congo River


An ongoing question in paleoenvironmental reconstructions of the central African rainforest concerns the role that prehistoric metallurgy played in shaping forest vegetation. Here we report evidence of intensive iron-ore mining and smelting in forested regions of the northern Congo Basin dating to the late Holocene. Volumetric estimates on extracted iron-ore and associated slag mounds from prehistoric sites in the southern Central African Republic suggest large-scale iron production on par with other archaeological and historically-known iron fabrication areas. These data document the first evidence of intensive iron mining and production spanning approximately 90 years prior to colonial occupation (circa AD 1889) and during an interval of time that is poorly represented in the archaeological record. Additional site areas pre-dating these remains by 3-4 centuries reflect an earlier period of iron production on a smaller scale. Microbotanical evidence from a sediment core collected from an adjacent riparian trap shows a reduction in shade-demanding trees in concert with an increase in light-demanding species spanning the time interval associated with iron intensification. This shift occurs during the same time interval when many portions of the Central African witnessed forest transgressions associated with a return to moister and more humid conditions beginning 500-100 years ago. Although data presented here do not demonstrate that iron smelting activities caused widespread vegetation change in Central Africa, we argue that intense mining and smelting can have localized and potentially regional impacts on vegetation communities. These data further demonstrate the high value of pairing archeological and paleoenvironmental analyses to reconstruct regional-scale forest histories.

Concepts: Iron, Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Archaeology, Prehistory, Central African Republic, Central Africa, Congo River


The African continent has the greatest burden of surgical disability-adjusted life years, yet the least is known about operative care here. This analysis describes the surgical patients admitted to 7 hospitals supported by the Médécins Sans Frontières (MSF) over 3 years in 3 conflict-affected countries-Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.

Concepts: Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Brazzaville, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Congo River


Assess mental health outcomes among women raising children from sexual violence-related pregnancies (SVRPs) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and stigma toward and acceptance of women and their children.

Concepts: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic, Republic of the Congo, Congo River


Studies in Western cultures have observed that both children and adults tend to overimitate, copying causally irrelevant actions in the presence of clear causal information. Investigation of this feature in non-Western groups has found little difference cross-culturally in the frequency or manner with which individuals overimitate. However, each of the non-Western populations studied thus far has a history of close interaction with Western cultures, such that they are now far removed from life in a hunter-gatherer or other small-scale culture. To investigate overimitation in a context of limited Western cultural influences, we conducted a study with the Aka hunter-gatherers and neighboring Ngandu horticulturalists of the Congo Basin rainforest in the southern Central African Republic. Aka children, Ngandu children, and Aka adults were presented with a reward retrieval task similar to those performed in previous studies, involving a demonstrated sequence of causally relevant and irrelevant actions. Aka children were found not to overimitate as expected, instead displaying one of the lowest rates of overimitation seen under similar conditions. Aka children copied fewer irrelevant actions than Aka adults, used a lower proportion of irrelevant actions than Ngandu children and Aka adults, and had less copying fidelity than Aka adults. Measures from Ngandu children were intermediate between the two Aka groups. Of the participants that succeeded in retrieving the reward, 60% of Aka children used emulation rather than imitation, compared to 15% of Ngandu children, 11% of Aka adults, and 0% of Western children of similar age. From these results, we conclude that cross-cultural variation exists in the use of overimitation during childhood. Further study is needed under a more diverse representation of cultural and socioeconomic groups in order to investigate the cognitive underpinnings of overimitation and its possible influences on social learning and the biological and cultural evolution of our species.

Concepts: Sociology, Culture, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cultural studies, Western culture, Globalization, Central African Republic, Congo River


Monodominant patches of forest dominated by Gilbertiodendron dewevrei are commonly found in central African tropical forests, alongside forests with high species diversity. Although these forests are generally found sparsely distributed along rivers, their occurrence is not thought to be (clearly) driven by edaphic conditions but rather by trait combinations of G. dewevrei that aid in achieving monodominance. Functional community structure between these monodominant and mixed forests has, however, not yet been compared. Additionally, little is known about nondominant species in the monodominant forest community. These two topics are addressed in this study. We investigate the functional community structure of 10 one-hectare plots of monodominant and mixed forests in a central region of the Congo basin, in DR Congo. Thirteen leaf and wood traits are measured, covering 95% (basal area weighted) of all species present in the plots, including leaf nutrient contents, leaf isotopic compositions, specific leaf area, wood density, and vessel anatomy. The trait-based assessment of G. dewevrei shows an ensemble of traits related to water use and transport that could be favorable for its location near forest rivers. Moreover, indications have been found for N and P limitations in the monodominant forest, possibly related to ectomycorrhizal associations formed with G. dewevrei. Reduced leaf N and P contents are found at the community level for the monodominant forest and for different nondominant groups, as compared to those in the mixed forest. In summary, this work shows that environmental filtering does prevail in the monodominant G. dewevrei forest, leading to lower functional diversity in this forest type, with the dominant species showing beneficial traits related to its common riverine locations and with reduced soil N and P availability found in this environment, both coregulating the tree community assembly.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Forest, Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Central Africa, Specific leaf area, Congo River


The impact of untreated syphilis during pregnancy on neonatal health remains a major public health threat worldwide. Given the high prevalence of syphilis during pregnancy in Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Preventive Congenital Syphilis Trial (PCS Trial), a cluster randomized trial, was proposed to increase same-day screening and treatment of syphilis during antenatal care visits. To design an accepted and feasible intervention, we conducted a qualitative  formative research. Our objective was to identify context-specific  barriers and facilitators to the implementation of antenatal screening and treatment during pregnancy.

Concepts: Health care, Pregnancy, Epidemiology, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic, Syphilis, Congo River, Angola