The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the third largest country by area on the African continent with a size of nearly 2.5 million sq km. It is situated at the heart of the West-Central portion of sub-Saharan Africa and is bounded by 10 countries. Its territory straddles the Equator, with one-third to the North and two-thirds to the South.
As a result of its equatorial location, the Congo sustains the second largest rain forest in the world. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.
The tropical climate has also produced the Congo River system which dominates the region topographically along with the rainforest it flows through. The river basin occupies nearly half of the entire country. The sources of the Congo are the highlands and mountains of the Western branch of the African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru.
The Northeastern section of the country is much more mountainous, but due to the rift's tectonic activities, this area also experiences low levels of volcanic activity. The rifting of the African continent in this area has created the famous Great Lakes which lie on the Congo's eastern frontier.
Congo is the most biologically diverse country in Africa with 415 species of mammals and 1,086 species of birds. With 37 species and 18 genera of primates, it has the highest level of primate diversity. Congo has a number of globally important flagship species, the best known being the bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee, the eastern lowland gorilla, the Congo peafowl, and the okapi, all of them endemic and of great international significance. Also of importance is the mountain gorilla which lives on the Uganda/Rwanda/DRC borders.
The country also has striking cultural diversity with some 250-300 different languages spoken. Over 99% of the populations are black Africans and there are around 200 tribes which are mostly of Bantu origin. The four principal tribes are the Mongo, Kongo, Luba and Mangbetu-Azande, with Sudanese, Nilotic and Cushitic influences in northeast Congo. The most interesting people of this country are the hunter-gatherer Mbuti Pygmies, who are among the few true forest people still living traditional lifestyles.