Dzanga-Sangha rain forest diorama
(c) AMNH / Denis Finnin
Enter this walk-through diorama, and the sights and sounds of a dense, tropical rainforest are revealed to you. Saplings, shrubs, herbs and ferns emerge from the leaf litter that blankets the forest floor, concealing insects, reptiles, and small ground mammals. A stream runs out from a partially-obscured clearing in the distance, where elephants can occasionally be glimpsed moving around. Glancing upward through the tangled vines, branches, and tree trunks, you can see birds and primates. This is a recreation of the Dzanga-Sangha rainforest of the Central African Republic (C.A.R.). This wild forest is home to some of the greatest concentrations of forest elephants and lowland gorillas in Africa, as well as to other mammals, many species of birds, and other vertebrates. Also found here are hundreds of plant species, and thousands of insects and microorganisms.
Like tropical forests everywhere, Dzanga-Sangha is threatened by human activities. Foreign timber and mining concessions drain natural resources from the region, while the local people clear land for agriculture and use the forest for other basic needs. To protect this ecosystem, the government of C.A.R. established the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park and the Dzanga-Sangha Dense Forest Reserve. The national park is sheltered against all human impacts, while the forest reserve allows limited exploitation of the local flora and fauna. Dzanga-Sangha is an example of a conservation effort designed to preserve biodiversity by enlisting local people as partners in the management of a protected area. Benefits that arise from activities such as ecotourism are then shared between the C.A.R. government and the local communities. The success of this project will be saving Dzanga-Sangha for future generations.