The Congo rainforest is the world's second largest rainforest after the Amazon.
Six countries -- Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea and Gabon -- share the 1.5 million square mile Congo basin.
The majority of the Congo rainforest lies in DRC.
The Congo rainforest is drained by the Congo river, which is Africa's most powerful river and the second largest river (by volume) in the world, after the Amazon river and its tributaries.
The Congo rainforest is famous for its people as well as its wildlife.
The Congo is home of the so-called "pygmies", who are known for their short-stature.
The term "pygmy" is a bit misleading; there are actually several different tribes, including the Mbuti, Aka, Baka, and Twa.
All of these tribes have great knowledge about the rainforest ecosystem and wildlife.
Pygmies are traditionally nomadic, but their culture is fast-changing due to deforestation and migration by other populations into their forest home.
In most countries "pygmies" have few land-rights, so they lose out to logging companies, plantation developers, and mining firms.
The Congo rainforest supports untold numbers of plant and animal species.
Some of the best known Congo rainforest animals are:
lowland and mountain gorillas, both which are endangered;
forest elephants, which are smaller and more threatened than savanna elephants;
the okapi, a strange forest giraffe that was only discovered in 1899;
and many of the familiar "safari animals" including hippos, lions, antelopes, and leopards.
The Congo rainforest is important beyond providing a home for plants and animals.
Forests help protect against flooding and drought.
The Congo affects global weather patterns including contributing to rainfall as far away as the U.S. Midwest.
Forests reduce soil erosion and landslides, especially in mountainous areas.
Forests are a source of food, building materials, and medicine.
Forests absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, helping fight climate change.
But the Congo rainforest is increasingly under threat.
Logging has damaged large areas in the Congo.
Small-scale farming has taken a toll, especially near cities and towns.
The bushmeat trade is very serious in some Congo rainforest countries. Large quantities of wildlife are hunted by commercial poachers who sell the meat to people in cities, sometimes as far away as New York.
Mining has also caused damage to forests and rivers in some parts of the Congo.
Large-scale famers and plantation developers are now investing in some countries. There are fears industrial agricultural development could cause deforestation, without generating much income for local people.
But while deforestation remains a concern in the Congo rainforest, there are a few reasons for hope.
The international community is working with Congo governments to find new ways to fund rainforest conservation.
Many good organizations are working to protect wildlife and support local communities in the Congo.
Still a lot needs to be done to help Congo countries protect their forests.
There are things you can do to help.
Tell your friends and parents about the Congo rainforest what is happening to it.
Be sure to recycle and reduce energy use. Try to produce as little garbage as possible.
Ask questions about the products you and your family buys. Do these products harm the environment? What is the origin of the paper you use?
Join an organization that is working to protect Congo rainforests.
This tour was created by Rhett A. Butler, the founder of mongabay.com.