Kahuzi Biega National Park

Kahuzi-Biega National Park is in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, 50 km west of the town of Bukavu in the Kivu Region, near to the western side of Lake Kivu and the Rwanda border. The park received its name from the two extinct volcanoes that is Mountain Kahuzi, the highest in the part of Kivu and Mountain Biega. It was gazetted in 1970, to conserve and preserve the Grauer’s gorilla which is the world’s largest gorilla species. In 1975, the park was extended from 600 to 6.000 square kilometers to protect the mountain forest and also the virgin forest located at the lower altitudes. Kahuzi Biega National Park is divided into two forest zones which are connected by a narrow corridor: on one side of the Park there is mountain forest covering 600 sq km from an altitude of 1,800 m to 3,300 m and on the other side, there is a tropical forest between 600 m and 1,200 m. This makes the Park therefore one of the biggest reserves serving to conserve flora and fauna in central Africa’s high mountain regions.

Kahuzi Biega National Park always remained open for tourism and never experienced the political instability which affected the North Kivu region of Congo particularly the Virunga. The park offers among the best experiences of gorilla trekking (the low-land gorillas only) but only the political instabilities in Congo as a whole contributed to discourage tourism to Kahuzi Biega National park. The park is found in one of the most populated areas of Congo which has put a lot of pressure on the habitat.

Tourism activities started in 1973 as the first “gorilla trekking” in the world. In 1979 a survey conducted in the mountains of Kahuzi Biega National Park counted 223 gorillas, divided into 14 families and 5 solitary males. Another survey in 1990 counted about 280 gorillas divided into 25 groups and 9 solitary males. In 1997 the park was listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the inconsistent wars.

However, the conflicts which have plagued this country since the 1990s have affected the conservation. The 2005 gorilla census in the park suggested that as many as 60% of the population of nearly 300 recorded in Kahuzi-Biega in 1990 may have perished. The fighting in the Congo has moved within the boundaries of the park causing looting, burning of the forest, and poaching of the animals.

Apart from low land gorilla tracking in the Park, the park also offers a lot of other activities since it is a habitat to over 135 mammal species which include twelve species of primates like eastern chimpanzees, red colobus, Blue monkey, Red Tailed monkey, L’Hoest monkey, Owl-faced monkey, Angolan black and white colobus, baboons, grey-cheeked mangabey), forest elephants, leopards, civets, gennets, otters and many antelopes and duikers. Over 336 species of birds found in the park are endemic to the Albertine Rift, such as the Rockefeller’s sunbird, Ruwenzori Turaco, Grauer’s broadbill, Grauer’s warbler and Shelley’s crimsonwing. There are further 69 species of reptiles and 44 species of amphibians.