Kabobo Massif consists of about 1,000 km2 of submontane and montane rainforest ranging from about 700 to over 2700 metres on the escarpment to the west of Lake Tanganyika. Because there is very little forest left within this altitudinal range in Africa, this area is particularly valuable for the conservation of chimpanzees and other species. The Kabobo-Luama landscape has 558 terrestrial vertebrate and 1,409 plant species of which 39 vertebrates and 71 plants are endemic, and 17 vertebrates and 16 plants globally threatened. The Massif has the most southerly population of chimpanzees in the Congo Basin forests, estimated in about 1500 individuals which represent one of the few viable populations of eastern Chimpanzees in the Albertine Rift region.
The region is also important for its populations of endemic subspecies of Angolan Colobus (Colobus angolensis prigoginei) confined to this forest, possibly a subspecies of Bongo (the only other Bongo found in mountainous areas in Kenya is a different subspecies), and Red Colobus (Pilocolobus oustaleti foai) which is also a subspecies confined to this region.
In the 60s of the last century the Belgian ornithologist Prigogine identified in Kabobo 18 Albertine Rift endemic bird species, including the Kabobo Apalis (Apalis kaboboensis) found only in this region. As a result, Kabobo was nominated as part of the Albertine Rift Endemic Bird Area by Birdlife International and was included in WWF ‘s Albertine Rift Ecoregion. Brief surveys in the 1950s identified at least seven endemic amphibians (we have added two more since) and two endemic reptiles were also known from Mt. Kabobo. The region was also identified as a ‘Centre of Plant Diversity” despite little information being available for it. WCS made an expedition to survey the massif in 2007 and again in 2012 which included the Luama Katanga Reserve, which increased the number of species documented for the region. These surveys also documented the presence of several species new to science, some of them recently published in the scientific literature.
During the2017 expedition, also thank to possibility of obtaining DNA sequences of wild animals directly in the field, we already have some interesting results about putative new species for Kabobo.
The most interesting, preliminary results of the field sequencing are the ones obtained from the tree Pangolin in the genus Phataginus and the tree frog of the genus Leptopelis.
In the first case, the 3% level of divergence that separates the Kabobo tree pangolin from the populations from which the GenBank received its sequences, seems to confirm the level of isolation of these forests, just as the 4% divergence of the Leptopelis specimen does. In the case of the antelope’s blast, i.e. the comparison between sequences and those present in the database indicates a 96% analogy with Cephalopus callipygus, a species found only in western Africa, in an area 2000 km away from where the Kabobo Expedition researchers collected and analysed the sample. The sister species, as determined from a recent phylogenetic reconstruction, is C. weynsi, whose sequence is missing from the GenBank.
The similarity with the Cepalophus species potentially present in the Kabobo area (C. nigrifrons, C. silvicultor, C. dorsalis and C. leucogaster.) results lower, spanning between 94 and 95%, eliminating any possibility of the sample analysed belonging to one of these species. Further research will be necessary to comprehend whether the antelope to whom the analysed sample belongs is C. weynsi or something else.