The Geography of the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic also know as CAR, is an landlocked country right in the middle of the African Continent. The countries that share borders with CAR are Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the southeast, the Democratic Republic of Congo to the south, the Republic of Congo to the southwest and Cameroon to the west.

Cr. United nations

The Central African Republic covers a land area of about 240,000 sq mi (620,000 sq km). As of 2018, it had an estimated population of around 4.7 million.

At 240,535 square miles (622,984 sq km), the Central African Republic is the world’s 44th-largest country. It is comparable in size to Ukraine, as Ukraine is 233,000 square miles (603,500 sq km) in area. (1)

The country lies largely in the savanna zone of Africa. The northern part is treeless, whereas the southern portion of the country contains dense tropical rainforests, particularly along the Ubangi and Sangha rivers. A wide range of vegetation can be found in the savannas, from scrubby, drought- and fire-resistant trees and shrubs to more luxuriant gallery forests near rivers and streams. (2)

The Central African Republic contains six geographic regions: East Sudanian savanna, Northern Congolian forest-savanna mosaic, and Sahelian Acacia savanna, Northeastern Congolian lowland forests, Northwestern Congolian lowland forests, and the Western Congolian swamp forests.

The Savannas

Savannas are are characterized of mostly grasses and a few scattered trees. They cover half the surface of Africa. It is warm year round with temperatures falling between 65-85 degrees (average), and rainfall is very scarce with 10-35 inches (25-75 cms) a year! …it is very, very dry.

Many species of antelope, as well as baboons, buffalo, and elephants, are found in the savannas; there are also forest elephants, which are smaller than those in the savanna. Once-numerous black rhinoceroses are now rare, the victims of overhunting. In the rainforests an even greater diversity of wildlife exists, including gorillas, chimpanzees, and other primates, leopards, and the endangered bongo antelope. (2)

The East Sudanian Savanna

The East Sudanian savanna is the eastern half of the Sudanian savanna belt which runs east and west across Africa. Its western block covers portions of northern Cameroon, southernmost Chad, northern Central African Republic, and southeastern South Sudan.

Seasonal cultivation and herding are lifestyles which lead the population of the savanna to overgraze, over harvest the trees for firewood or charcoal and cause fires. This has reduced the woodland considerably. However large areas of unspoilt habitat remain even outside protected areas, especially compared with the more heavily populated West Sudanian savanna.

Poaching is another problem, indeed the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) and northern white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) were formerly native to the ecoregion but have been eliminated through over-hunting.

Cr. An Indian Traveler

Northern Congolian Forest–Savanna Mosaic

The Northern Congolian forest–savanna mosaic is a forest and savanna ecoregion of central Africa. It extends east and west across central Africa, covering parts of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and Uganda.

Cr. Wikimedia Commons, Altatoron

Like its name describes, this region is a mosaic of forest, open woodland, and grassland.


Wooded and open grasslands are widespread. The ground is thickly covered by perennial grasses, including species of Andropogon, Hyparrhenia, and Loudetia.

Hyparrhenia, Wikimedia Commons.

Trees, including Annona senegalensis, Burkea africana, Combretum collinum, Hymenocardia acida, Parinari curatellifolia, Stereospermum kunthianum, and species of Vitex and Strychnos, form open-canopied woodlands or are scattered in grassy savannas. Frequent human-caused fires have allowed grasslands to spread into areas formerly covered with forest or woodland.

Annona senegalensis

Annona senegalensis also known as African Custard-Apple. Cr. Pintarest
Cr. Annona senegalensis fruit, Wikimedia Commons, Ton Rulkens
Cr. Annona senegalensis fruit by Meiken Piepenbring, www. westafricanplants.senckenberg. de

Burkea Africana known also as the wild syringa 

Cr. Wikimedia Commons, Rotational

Isolated patches of dry forest are found in areas with sparse human population and few human-caused fires are also found.

The flora in gallery forests, (forests formed as a corridor along rivers or wetlands, projecting into landscapes that are otherwise only sparsely treed ) include Berlinia grandiflora, Cola laurifolia, Cynometra vogelii, Diospyros elliotii, Parinari congensis, and Pterocarpus santalinoides.

Berlinia grandiflora

Remnants of semi-evergreen forest are found in the south, composed mostly of typical Congolian species like Afzelia africana, Aningeria altissima, Gambeya perpulchra, Cola gigantea, Morus mesozygia, and Khaya grandifoliola.

Sahelian Acacia Savanna

The Sahel Acacia Savannas bioregion, located in the Sub-Saharan Afrotropics, consists almost entirely of one ecoregion — Sahelian Acacia Savanna — that spans across the width of the continent from northern Senegal and Mauritania on the Atlantic coast to Sudan and Eritrea on the Red Sea. Commonly referred to as the ‘Sahel’—this ecoregion comprises a grassland-dominated transition zone between savanna woodlands to the south and the Sahara Desert to the north. The Sahelian climate is tropical, hot, and strongly seasonal. (4)

Cr. Research Gate
Sahel forest near Kayes in Mali Cr. WikiWand
Acacia trees fill the plains near Wadi Archei in the Ennedi Mountains, Chad, Central Africa. Cr. Wikiwand

Signalled by the onset of pronounced dry season, the northern most population of African elephants complete an incredible annual migration of over 600 km from Mali to Burkina Faso and back across the Northern Congolian Forest-Savanna ecoregion. In the past, there were many more major migrations of large mammals, as well as the annual passage of large numbers of migrant birds on the Afrotropical-Palaearctic flyway and intra-African migration of birds and bats. Many of these migrations have virtually ceased now, mainly because wildlife populations have been decimated by hunting. (4)

For reptiles, ten species are regarded as strictly endemic, of which the only species of conservation concern is the African spurred tortoise which is extirpated in Cameroon and is very rare in Nigeria. This is the African spurred tortoise: 


The Northern Eastern & Western Congolian Lowland Forests

These forests are part of the Congolian rainforest. The Congolian rainforest is the world’s second-largest tropical forest, after the Amazon rainforest. It covers over 500,000,000 acres (2,000,000 km2) and contains a quarter of the world’s remaining tropical forest. This forest is shared by seven nations: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These are some images of the forest:

Cr. ensia. com

These are two maps that illustrate this gorgeous rainforest:

Cr. Science Direct. com
Cr. bitsofscience. com

Northeastern Congolian lowland forests

Epulu river flowing through the Okapi Fauna Reserve. Cr. Wikimedia Commons,
J. Doremus

The Northeastern Congolian lowland forests lie in the northeastern basin of the Congo River. The ecoregion is mostly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a portion extending into the southern Central African Republic. It is the easternmost portion of the Guineo-Congolian region, a belt of tropical rain forests that extends through western and central Africa. (1)

The climate is humid and tropical. Average annual rainfall ranges from 1,500 mm to 2,000 mm, and is generally lower in the east. There is a distinct dry season from January to March.


The eastern edge of the ecoregion along the Albertine Rift is the most densely-populated. The central part of the ecoregion, including the Ituri Forest, is sparsely populated, and is home to the Mbuti people, an indigenous pygmy people who live by hunting and gathering in the forest.

The Mbuti, also called Bambuti, comprises several ethnic people of Central Sudanic and Bantu languages origin living in the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These people practice hunting and gathering and live in small groups of up to sixty people. Estimates indicate that there are between 30,000 and 40,000 Mbuti people. There are at least four Mbuti cultures, including the Sua, Efe, and Asua, all of whom face various environmental challenges that make their lives in the forest harder. (3).

Some people refer to them as the las Pygmies of the Congo. There is a great article about them HERE. It was written by Robyn Huang with photography by Matt Reichel. This is one of the photographs:


16 mammals are endemic to this region. These include  the okapi (Okapia johnstoni), giant genet (Genetta victoriae), aquatic genet (Genetta piscivora), lesser forest shrew (Sylvisorex oriundus), African foggy shrew (Crocidura caliginea), fuscous shrew (Crocidura polia), owl-faced monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni), and L’Hoest’s monkey (Allochrocebus lhoesti). It is important habitat for the eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri). Wondering what some of these animals look like? Me too! ^ ^

Okapi (Okapia johnstoni)

Cr. Encyclopedia Britannica

Giant Genet (Genetta tigrina)

Cr. Peter Chadwick
Cr. cincinnatizoo. org

Lesser forest shrew (Sylvisorex oriundus)

Cr. Pintarest

The owl-faced monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni) or Hamlyn’s monkey:

Cr. zoo-leipzig.d
Cr. zoo-leipzig.d

The Eastern Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri) or Grauer’s gorilla

Cr. Wikimedia Commons, Joe McKenna

There are also endemic birds that include the Neumann’s coucal (Centropus neumanni) and the golden-naped weaver (Ploceus aureonucha). Nahan’s francolin (Ptilopachus nahani), Ituri batis (Batis ituriensis), Turner’s eremomela (Eremomela turneri), Congo peacock (Afropavo congensis), Sassi’s greenbul (Phyllastrephus lorenzi), Bedford’s paradise-flycatcher (Terpsiphone bedfordi), and Chapin’s mountain-babbler (Turdoides chapini) are considered near-endemic.

This is the golden-naped weaver. This is one of the few portrays I found:

Cr. Pintarest

There are so many kinds of weavers. Check THIS blog if you are interested.

There are seven endemic amphibians, including the olive shovelnose (Hemisus olivaceus), Kigulube reed frog (Hyperolius diaphanus), Kunungu reed frog (H. schoutendeni), Mertens’ running frog (Kassina mertensi), Buta River frog (Phrynobatrachus gastoni), Christy’s grassland frog (Ptychadena christyi), and Pangi Territory frog (Amietia chapini). There are five endemic reptiles, including the Zaire dwarf gecko. (1)

Olive Shovelnose (Hemisus olivaceus)

Cr. gone.frogging. com

Such beautiful creatures! Now let’s explore the…

Western Congolian Lowland Forests

The Northwestern Congolian lowland forests is a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion that spans Cameroon, Gabon, the Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic. It forms part of the larger Congolian rainforests region in Central Africa. The region is noteworthy for very high levels of species richness and endemism. It is home to a core population of the critically endangered Western lowland gorilla. There are also large populations of forest elephants.

Northwestern Congolese lowland forests map. Cr. Wikimedia Commons, Altatoron

21% of this ecoregion is within protected areas. 40% of the unprotected area is still forested. Protected areas include:

  • Dzanga-Ndoki National Park (Central African Republic),
  • Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve, (Central African Republic)
  • Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, (Central African Republic)

About the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve

The forest special reserve was established in 1990, along with its neighboring Dzanga Ndoki National Park. Until 1986, anybody was free to shoot game in the forest. In 1999, the forest special reserve was administered collaboratively by the Central African Ministry of Environment, Water, Forests, Hunting and Fishing, and the World Wildlife Fund. In the same year, the so-called Yaoundé Declaration was signed, forming a tri-national park agreement of cooperation with the Dzanga-Sangha Forest Reserve, Lobéké National Park in Cameroon, and the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo.

This tri-park area is operated by the Central African Forest Commission (COMIFAC), and is overseen and funded by international wildlife groups such as the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Along with these other protected areas, it is a candidate for designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Dzanga-Sangha Forest Reserve is ecologically rich and contains a variety of megafauna such as western lowland gorillas, African forest elephants, bongo antelopes, African forest buffalos, white-nosed and moustache monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, bushpigs, duikers, and many different bird species. Of particular note are the western lowland gorillas and forest elephants. Dzanga-Sangha Forest Reserve has one of the highest population densities of gorillas in the world, with an estimated 2000 of them living within the reserve’s precincts. Since the establishment of the reserve, it has been an important location for research into the western lowland gorillas and forest elephants, in particular.

Forest Elephants

Group of African forest elephants digging at a mineral lick. Cr. Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters.
A female with her calf drinking from a spring. Cr. Wikimedia Commons, Cr. Wikimedia Commons

Want to see them move? ^ ^. I found this great video:

Western Lowland Gorilla

Western lowland gorilla silverback male. Taken at the Cincinnati Zoo.Cr. WIkimedia Commons, Greg Hume
Western lowland gorilla female and juvenile. Taken at the Cincinnati Zoo. Cr. Wikimedia Commons, Greg Hume

They have guides that take you right where the gorillas are! Look:

Well this concludes our virtual visit to the amazing natural places in the Central African Republic. In another post I will cover cities and towns along with rivers. Waterfalls… there is just too much!


(1) Wikipedia

(2) Encyclopedia Britannica

(3) www.inertianetwork. com

(4) www.oneearth. org

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