Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park covers an area of active volcanoes with a high diversity in plants and animals. Vulnerable or endangered species that live here include the hippopotamus, the mountain gorilla, the lowland gorilla and the eastern chimpanzee.
The Virunga National Park (formerly Albert National Park) lies in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda. Covering 7,800 kmē it was established in 1925 as Africa's first national park. In later years it has become known for its mountain gorillas, although poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlife population.
The national park covers the western shores of Lake Edward, known for its hippopotamuses while elsewhere, marshland, grassland plateau and plains dominate the park. The Ruwenzori Mountains lie on the Ugandan border and rise to alpine meadows and a glacier, while Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira are both active volcanoes with substantial associated lava plains.
Although mountain gorillas are now extremely rare, successful conservation work has secured the remaining populations. In fact, they increased during the years of political upheaval in the region (1994-2004). 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. The neighbouring Mount Hoyo area was managed with the park and is home to a population of Bambuti Pygmy people, caves and waterfalls, but since the civil wars, the park has suffered somewhat. Land invasions and intense poaching have challenged the park authorities to the limit, but most rangers have remained active. Since 1994, about 120 rangers have been killed in the line of duty protecting the park from illegal poaching and land acquisition.
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