Virunga National Park (World Heritage)
According to smber, the up to 4,500 m high Virunga volcanoes form a chain of eight volcanoes in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the border with Rwanda and Uganda. They are covered with tropical mountain rainforest. The national park is the oldest national park in Africa and is one of the most biodiverse regions on the continent. The Virunga Mountains are home to the endangered mountain gorillas. With a population of less than 1000 animals, they are among the rarest and most threatened mammal species in the world. The region is also the habitat for around 20,000 hippos. The park has been on the red list since 1994.
Virunga National Park: facts
|Official title:||Virunga National Park|
|Natural monument:||7900 km², in the transition to the Ruwenzori Mountains (up to 5119 m) in Uganda, placed on the “Red List” of endangered world heritage in 1994 because of the civil war in neighboring Rwanda and its consequences, in particular the risk of deforestation of 600 t / day|
|Country:||Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kivu Region|
|Location:||Northeast Congo, border area with Uganda and Rwanda|
|Meaning:||Unparalleled diversity of habitats – from wetlands to snowfields in the Ruwenzori Mountains – and a sanctuary for mountain gorillas that have become rare|
|Flora and fauna:||tropical rainforest, dry and bamboo forest as well as steppes and heaths with milkweed plants such as Euphorbia dawei, Combretum dry trees, acacias such as Acacia sieberana, stone discs such as Podocarpus latifolius and giant lobelia; Elephants, hippos, warthogs, Cape buffalo, a growing population of lions, mountain gorillas in the Semiliki Valley and on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains, okapis, Defassa waterbuck, topi belonging to the lyre antelopes; Bird species such as pelicans, Nahan Frankolin (Francolinus nahani), common thrush (Zoothera oberlaenderi) and shoebill|
Under the equator, at the foot of the moon mountains
If the diversity of the scenery, the landforms with their rivers, mountains, forests, types of vegetation, plants and animals are used to measure the magnificence of an area, in the opinion of many people who have come a long way in Africa, the Virunga National Park is definitely one of the most beautiful parts of Africa.
Its middle section in particular is home to a breathtaking variety. Here lie gently undulating grass savannahs covered with grazing ungulates. Among them is a special kind of bog antelope, the Uganda kobs. These brown-yellow antelopes, which are only horned in males and around the size of a deer, are concentrated in so-called “leks” during the breeding season. The word comes from Swedish and means something like »playground«, which does not mean that advertising and pairing are a game for the Kobs – both take place in animal seriousness. A lek is a very small territory that is claimed by a single buck and from which it drives away all other male kob. The neighbors respect the property claims, provided that the boundaries have been determined by threats and horn fights.
In addition to the kobs, herds of topis, which belong to the lyre antelopes, but also mighty buffalo and several dainty small antelopes such as the oribis, graze here. Lions and hyenas live here in large numbers, as do warthogs and baboons. The Rutschuru, a constantly water-bearing river, meanders through this section of the park, the banks of which are overgrown by bushes and gallery forest. Bushbuck, reed and waterbuck live here that are bound to the water. Water bird species such as herons and Egyptian geese, lapwing and plover species as well as starlings populate the sandbanks and bank regions. In addition to the baboons, vervet monkeys and the elegant-looking black and white guerezas leap through the trees. Where there are sandbars, leisurely-looking hippos lay between which often white herons, but also the imposing Goliath herons strut about. without bothering about the mighty colossi. At the southern end of Lake Edward is a small, busy fishing village. When the rich catches of fish are landed, countless pelicans gather here. Occasionally elephants pay a majestic visit to the village and come very close to the houses and people in the hope of catching some sugar cane. Above it all, on the roofs of the houses, are enthroned marabous, waiting to steal some kind of rubbish. to catch some sugar cane. Above it all, on the roofs of the houses, are enthroned marabous, waiting to steal some kind of rubbish. to catch some sugar cane. Above it all, on the roofs of the houses, are enthroned marabous, waiting to steal some kind of rubbish.
In the northern sector of the park, on the banks of Lake Edward, is the habitat of what was once Africa’s largest population of hippos. As a result of the earlier civil war events and above all through poaching, the numbers of these pig relatives who live in the water during the day and graze at night have declined by 98%. Of the once 30,000 hippos, only around 630 are left.
In the southern part, the Nyamulagira and Nyiragongo volcanoes are an unforgettable sight. From a distance you can see smoke rising from them. Nyiragongo is one of the most active volcanoes on earth and has erupted several times in recent years. The glowing lava in its crater paints the sky and the clouds moving over it with a fiery red reflection. Nature makes it very clear here what mighty powers it is.
In the Mikeno area in the extreme south there are some mountain gorilla families who are used to people visiting. For many, the sight of these giants is a unique experience: gorillas are self-confident, incredibly strong and yet so peaceful. The elephants that roam the entire park have become rare and shy. It may be a long time before the gentle giants forget their dire experiences with humans. Many parts of the park are currently closed to visitors due to the consequences of the civil war, but the main road that leads through is open. The entire length of the western boundary of the park is dominated by the impressive snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains, a great backdrop for the entire park.
Even with all the aversion to superlatives, you can’t help but describe the Virunga National Park as a deeply impressive, beautiful place on earth.