VIRUNGA NATIOANAL PARK

 

virunga- natianal park 

Virunga National Park is 7,800 square miles in size and includes forests, savannas, lava plains, swamps,

erosion valleys, active volcanoes and the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori Mountians.

Here, 25% of the world’s population of Mountain Gorillas live; the only other countries that have these

primates are Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition to the Mountain Gorillas, two

other Great Ape species live in the park, the eastern lowland Gorillas and Chimpanzees; making Virunga

the only park in the world to host three taxa of Great Apes. Another prominent inhabitant of the park is

the Okapi, an endangered species that resembles a zebra but is more closely related to the giraffe. In

addition, there are large numbers of Hippos, forest and savanna Elephants, Lions, and numerous rare

bird species.

The park is divided into three distinct sectors:

 The northern sector, which is defined by the Rwenzori Mountains that border Uganda. The

summits are permanently snow-capped; and this melted snow is a primary source of water for

the Nile River.

 The Ishasha River Valley, Lake Edward and the Rwindi plains are what defines the second sector.

Lake Edward has over 50 species of fish, as well as many bird species. Here the Hippo

population, is recovering from being endangered….once the largest in the world. The Rwindi

plains contains the highest populations  of wildlife such as  Elephant, Buffalo, Warthogs and Topi.

 The Southern Secotor is best known for the Mountain Gorillas that live on the flanks of the

dormant Mikeno volcano (4,380 meters). This dense forest habitat is ideal for chimpanzees and

numerous species of Monkeys.

Oil was discovered in Virunga National Park a few years ago and this has caused a lot of concern with

regards to the impact of oil exploration. Many unique fragile species are at risk and the government of

Rwanda is presently trying to redefine the borders of the park to allow the oil companies to start

working there. International conservation groups have expressed their concerns; but it does not seem

that things will remain constant in the park for much longer. Another threat to the survival of the park,

is the charcoal industry. Trees are cut down in great numbers throughout Rwanda and all the East

African countries; mostly for the production of charcoal. This industry is now tied into the Gorilla

poaching industry and it is a lethal dependence. Most of the income from poaching seems to be

funneled into the buying guns for the militias that co-exist in Rwanda.