Chocorilla

Field Facts:

Fact #1 - Get ready Beans we're headed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo located in Central Africa. Be advised that most of the country's natural resources and people are found in the southern grasslands, while the northern and central regions are mountainous areas covered with trees, called cloud forests. So, you're going to need your hiking boots and raincoat for this mission.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Fact #2 - Cloud forests are a type of rainforest located high in the mountains of tropical areas. These forests are humid and rainy like typical rainforests, but the air is cool. The trees are small and crooked due to the wind, sun and cold temperatures. The ground is covered with moss, ferns and epiphytes (a plant that grows on another plant). These regions are named cloud forests because most of the time they are covered in fog or low-lying clouds.

Fact #3 - The Kahuzi-Biega National Park, (Google Earth Coordinates) in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, is named after two extinct volcanoes. Hey! Green Bean Island has an extinct volcano too. The park contains cloud forest habitats and was established to preserve this unique ecosystem and to protect the endangered eastern lowland gorillas that live there. The Kahuzi-Biega National Park is very big and covers an area of over 3,700 square miles (6,000 sq. km).

Fact #4 - Eastern lowland gorillas that live in the park are sociable and very peaceful. Normally, they live in groups of five to thirty. Infant gorillas normally stay with their mother for three to four years and mature at around eleven to twelve years of age. Gorillas must eat frequently due to their large size and therefore must spend long hours feeding every day. That's how poor Mocha got in trouble in the first place. He wandered off looking for a snack and was separated from his family! We must find him quickly because the forest can be a dangerous place for a young gorilla on his own.

Fact #5 - Kahuzi Biega Park is located in a highly populated area and is subject to many threats. Poaching (illegal hunting) has greatly reduced the gorilla and elephant populations in the Congo.

Fact #6 - There are approximately 100,000 western lowland gorillas in the wild, and only about 5,000 eastern lowland gorillas. Outside of their native habitat, only one female lives in captivity at the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium.

Fact #7 - Scientists don't know much about the social behavior, history and ecology of the eastern lowland gorillas because of a civil war that is taking place in the Congo. This makes it dangerous for researchers to go into the park and collect data. It would be very helpful if gorillas knew how to talk!

Fact #8 - Some researchers believe that Gorilla's and other primates can learn to interact with humans by using hand motions, called sign language. American Sign Language was developed to help deaf people communicate with others.

Fact #9 - Threats to the eastern lowland gorilla include poaching and habitat destruction. In addition, gorillas in the Congo are forced to live in a much smaller area because of increased human populations, logging, mining and agricultural expansion.

Fact #10 - Today, millions of Congolese people depend on farming for food to feed their families and to make money. Important crops include coffee, sugar, tea, cotton, rubber and cacao. Cacao is used to make chocolate. The fruit, called a cacao pod, is an oval shape and weighs about one pound. Each pod contains a white fruit with around 40-50 seeds, called beans. Cacao beans are the main ingredient for chocolate and cocoa powder. It's no wonder why the Litterbugs chose the Congo for their latest candy caper!

Cocoa beans in a cocoa pod.  Photo Credit: Keith Weller, USDA ARS

Green Beans, we need to find a way to keep peace in the Congo. Your mission is to help the Green Bean Team return Mocha to his family and stop the Litterbugs from stealing the cacao seeds from the farmer's trees.

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