The Kansere-Masakaru-Iyuma Forests in Utunda-Nord

Categories: Journal no. 67, Censuses, Threats, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Grauer's Gorilla

A few of the many areas where forest is protected by local communities in the Grauer's gorilla distribution area (© Angela Meder)

The Kansere-Masakaru-Iyuma forests are located between the Usala Gorilla Reserve (RGU) and the Kisimba-Ikobo Primate Reserve (RPKI), in the vicinity of Nyamemba village, groupement Utunda-Nord, Walikale territory, North Kivu province in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These forests are traditionally managed by local Nyanga leaders. These indigenous communities cut a few tree branches, but never entire trees. They consider the forest and the creatures that inhabit it as members of their families which, according to their ancestral customs, were left to them by their ancestor KIMINA.

For around five years, we have been carrying out reconnaissance and biodiversity assessment patrols in these forests from time to time, which has enabled us to report on the status of these forests.

The forests are bounded to the east by the Bilate River, to the west by the Watu River, to the north by the Kororo River and to the south by the Okowa and Chase Rivers. Several watercourses flow into these rivers, including the Manga, Mariba, Mbombo, Afari, Mpene, Kikoshu, Busonja and Akindabine, as well as several swamps, all of which are rich in fish and other aquatic species.

Biodiversity is essential to human well-being, the health of the planet and the economic prosperity of all people. We depend on it for food, medicine, energy, clean air and water, protection against natural disasters, recreation and cultural inspiration, and it sustains all life systems on earth. Our ancestors understood this even before colonisation, which is why our forests remain intact.

The vision of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is of a society living in harmony with nature, where "by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used, so as to safeguard ecosystem services, the health of the planet and the essential benefits that all people enjoy".

These forests have never been part of any plan to create community reserves, nor have they been part of any conservation organisation - only the local population defines the land use patterns in the area. The local people depend on the forest for their livelihoods: they practise subsistence farming, hunting, gathering and artisanal mining. Thanks to the conservationist spirit of the area's local leaders, and despite their not belonging to any conservation organisation or association, the area remains rich in biodiversity, with emblematic species such as gorillas, okapis, chimpanzees, forest elephants and forest buffalos, and other protected species such as red colobus, aardvarks, Congolese peacocks and pangolins. Hunting is regulated, respecting the species protected by Congolese law.

As it contains many protected species, this is an area of high conservation value.

The flora is characteristic of the vegetation of lowland mountain forests and tropical rainforests. The climate is equatorial. The area contains a large swampy area resembling a peat bog and mangrove. The forests deserve special attention. Due to the lack of intervention, numerous cases of poaching of chimpanzees, gorillas, okapis and pangolins have been reported in the area, according to the testimony of local chiefs.

Large trees are found in areas that are not swampy. The swamps contain trees of medium size (up to 15 m).

In view of the threats to these forests, there is an urgent need to launch conservation activities in the area. The new conservation system setting out the terms and conditions for allocating forest concessions to local communities (CFLC) is an important solution for the effective protection of threatened species in these forests (Decree No. 014/018 of 02 August 2014, especially Articles 19 and 20 paragraph 4). Community conservation activities should be included to facilitate proper management and monitoring of biodiversity.

Results of a biodiversity assessment in the Kansere Forest



Species encounter rate/km


Eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri)



Eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)



Okapi (Okapia johnstoni)



Forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer)



Giant pangolin (Manis gigantea)



Leopard (Panthera pardus)



Aardvark (Orycteropus afer)



Water chevrotain (Hyemoschus aquaticus)


3 groups

Red colobus (Piliocolobus badius)



L'Hoest's monkey (Cercopithecus l’hoesti)



Hamlyn's monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni)



Red river hog (Potamochoerus porcus)



Bay duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis)



Yellow-backed duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor)



Black duiker (Cephalophus niger)



  • illegal activities in the forest, particularly poaching, gold mining and the search for minerals
  • the lack of financial resources to carry out research

Needs and priority actions:

  • maintain the ecological corridor linking the two nature reserves (RGU and RPKI)
  • where possible, monitor large mammals and gorillas
  • support the community reserve initiative and community forestry
  • strengthen protection laws for gorillas and chimpanzees, including forest protection laws, and enforce them
  • raise awareness of nature conservation laws
  • support and equip trackers and guides
  • support surveillance and anti-poaching activities
  • build local capacity through training

Awareness raising and education: Encourage new awareness raising initiatives for the preservation of forest biodiversity and gorillas in particular.

Community development: Everything needs to be done or redone. Armed conflict in the region has devastated local communities, threatening their livelihoods. The human residents of the area are now living in miserable conditions. If the gorillas are to survive in this terrible social context, it is imperative to develop long-term programmes to combat poverty, identify long-term support solutions for the human population and set up environmental education programmes.

Conclusion and thanks

We cannot end this short report without thanking all those who have contributed to the realisation of this work. Our sincere thanks go to the Gorilla Organization (GO) for supporting this work in Kansere. Community conservation by local people is a very good initiative. It helps to protect natural resources and local ecosystems. These initiatives should be supported, because without the appropriate resources, especially in remote areas, it is difficult to guarantee the long-term health of ecosystems and biodiversity.

Papy Kabaya Mahamudi Eustache