Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park in Congo is found in the Albertine Rift Valley in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The park was created in 1925 and it was one of the first protected forests in Africa. Its altitude ranges from 690m in the Semiliki River valley to 5,110m in the Rwenzori Mountains.

Virunga National Park in Congo ranges from North to South extending about 400km along the international boundaries within Rwanda and Uganda in the eastern region. The park covers an area of 9,000 sq.km and it is listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger from the year of 1994 until to date.

Virunga National park has two active volcanoes that are located in the middle of the park including Mount Nyamuragira and Mount Nyiragongo, the volcanoes have shaped the parks wildlife and diverse habitat. 

The park has more than 3000 flora and fauna species that are recorded, with 300 that are endemic to the Albertine Rift such as the Eastern Gorillas and Golden Monkeys.

Virunga National park in Congo is one of the homes that protect the mountain Gorillas in the world, together with Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National park in Uganda, and Volcanoes National park in Rwanda.

There were three conservation movements such as Jean-Marie Dersched, Jean Massart, and Victor Van Straelen, in the 1920s that came up with an idea of creating a protected area in the north-eastern region of Belgian Congo. The Albertine National park was established in 1926 before it was a reserve that was aiming at preserving wildlife and hunter-gatherers known as the African Pygmies.

However in 1927, the Albert National park was headed by Belgian mission, the park encompassed an area of 500 sq.km near the Volcanoes Mount Mikeno, & Mount Karisimbi.

The encompassed area was then extended in 1929 bt Virunga National park. The Virunga Mountains were now part of the Rutshuru territory and south of Lake Edward. Virunga National Park is listed under the UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1979 as well a Ramsar site of an international forest.

Between 1996 and 2003, 80 park staff were killed and a number of armed rebel groups who were operating in the park who included Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and National congress or the Defence of the people.

Virunga National Park
Gorillas in Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park encompasses a third of fourth of Lake Edward to the international border in the East part of Uganda. There are two corridors to the north and south sectors of National park, whereby the south sector stretches to the shores of Lake Kivu which encompasses Nyiragongo, Mikeno and Nyamulagira volcanoes with Montane Forest slopes. While the northern sector of Virunga National park stretches from Rwenzori mountain National park, Semiliki National park, and Queen Elizabeth National park.

The southern part of Virunga National Park borders Volcanoes National Park of Rwanda, & both parks protect the endangered mountain Gorilla species.

During the months of March to mid-May and September to November, these are rainy seasons. The northern sector receives 230mm, the south sector receives 170mm, which has an average temperature with a lower altitude.

Virunga National park inhabits flora, which encompasses over 3000 plant species, which includes 300 tree species, 400 plants endemic Albertine Rift.

There are plains in the Virunga National park, that are dominated by grasslands, wetlands, African Caper, Common reed, Cucurbits, nightshades, Maerua, Elephants, Kowal fruit, among others seed dispersal.

Virunga National park inhabits Fauna including African bush elephants, Mountain Gorillas, African Buffaloes, Lions, Uganda kobs and many more.

Virunga National park protects over 800 bird species, 200 mammals, and 200 reptiles and over 70 amphibians.

Virunga National park, the park adjacent to Queen Elizabeth National park a lion conservation unit. In the northern sector of the park, there is marsh mongoose, African leopards, Giant pangolin, crested porcupine, Boehm’s bush squirrel, Emin’s pouched rat, Lord Derby scaly tailed hyrax, Checkered elephant shrew and many more.

Virunga National Park inhabits bird species including the endemic birds, Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori batis, Archer’s ground robin, red-throated alethe, Kivu ground thrush, collared apalis, mountain masked apalis, dusky crimson-wing, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, red-faced woodland warbler, stripe-breasted tit, blue-headed sunbird, regal sunbird, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, handsome francolin, and strange weaver.

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