Kahuzi-Biega

Kahuzi-Biega - DRC Gorilla tracking

Designated as a National Park in 1970 with an area of 750 square kilometres, Kahuzi-Biega is essentially two impressive extinct volcanoes, Kahuzi (9,153ft) and Biega (1,085ft). The park has diverse and abundant fauna but was created primarily to preserve the habitat of the gorillas.

The pair of volcanoes are the two highest peaks in the Mitumba Range along the western shore of Lake Kivu in the Great Rift Valley. Dian Fossey, the American zoologist started her work in this park with these animals. In 1975 the park was increased to 6,000 square kilometres to include the watershed and tributaries of the Luka and Lugulu Riers, and the connecting belt of mountain valleys.

Surrounded by a very high population density, conservation within the park is a challenge. One of the last groups of eastern lowland (graueri) gorillas (only some 250 individuals forming 86% of the total world population) lives at between 2,100 and 2,400 m above sea-level but numbers have been devastated during the Civil War.
There were about 284 mountain gorillas in 1990 living within 25 families but recent counts which have taken place since 2004 have found only 2 families consisting of around 40 individuals. Forest elephant, several other sub-species of monkeys, chimpanzees and numerous birds make this area their home.

Since 2004 the situation has improved marginally but the easy access from Bukavu which once allowed steady tourism to support and protect the park has not returned to anything like a normal situation. The genocidal warfare in Rwanda in 1994 swamped the area with refugees and many rangers were murdered and animals killed. Illicit mining of Coltan, an ore from which tantalum is derived (used in the production of cell phones), has added to the destruction of the habitat.

This park and the other four national parks in eastern Congo were inscribed on the UNESCO List of "World Heritage in Danger" in 1997.
The United Nations Environment Programme is appealing to all manufacturers of electronic components to ensure that their supplies of Tantalum are not produced by illegal miners of Coltan in the Congo national parks.

Other Congo national parks with small populations of Mountain Gorillas:
Virunga National Park - split into 3 sections, north of Kahuzi-Biega, between Lake Kivu and Lake Albert. Part of it was established in 1925!
Maiko N.P. - about 9,000 sq.km. of lowland forest and low mountains, north of Kahuzi-Biega N.P.

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