Virunga National Park

Virunga is the second oldest national park in the world, behind only Yellowstone!  Although poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlif, it is still home to a population of mountain gorillas.

Official Website for Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo — excellent site with blog

Virunga is truly the crown jewel of Africa’s national parks. The park contains over 50% of sub-Saharan Africa’s biodiversity and is home to about 200 of the earth’s last 720 critically endangered mountain gorillas. Virunga is also the second oldest national park in the world, behind only Yellowstone. Despite this, the forests and amazing animals of the park, most notably the mountain gorilla, are in a desperate fight for their survival.

Virunga National Park (Wikipedia)

The Virunga National Park (formerly Albert National Park) lies from the Virunga Mountains, to the Rwenzori Mountains, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda. Covering 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 sq mi) it was established in 1925 as Africa’s first national park. It was classified as a World Heritage Site in 1979. In later years it has become known for its mountain gorillas, although poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlife population.

Although mountain gorillas are now extremely rare and listed as one of the most critically-endangered species, successful conservation work has helped to secure the remaining populations. Their populations actually increased during the years of political upheaval in the region (1994-2004), but renewed military conflict in the park (October 2008) including the seizing of the park headquarters and expelling of park rangers, poaching, and rampant deforestation for illegal charcoal production once again cast doubt on their future [2]. It is believed that both savanna and forest elephants and chimpanzees can still be found in Virunga, along with Okapi, giraffes, buffaloes and many endemic birds.

UNESCO Virunga National Park Site

Virunga National Park (covering an area of 790,000 ha) comprises an outstanding diversity of habitats, ranging from swamps and steppes to the snowfields of Rwenzori at an altitude of over 5,000 m, and from lava plains to the savannahs on the slopes of volcanoes. Mountain gorillas are found in the park, some 20,000 hippopotamuses live in the rivers and birds from Siberia spend the winter here.

Virunga National Park is notable for its chain of active volcanoes and the greatest diversity of habitats of any park in Africa: from steppes, savannas and lava plains, swamps, lowland and Afromontane forests, to the unique Afroalpine vegetation and icefields of the Ruwenzori mountains, which culminate in peaks above 5000m. The site includes the spectacular Ruwenzori and Virunga Massifs, including Africa’s two most active volcanoes. The great diversity of habitats harbors an exceptional biodiversity, including endemic as well as rare and globally endangered species, such as the mountain gorilla.

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