Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Eastern lowland gorillas were once widespread under 6,500 feet (2,000 m) elevation at the foot of volcanoes throughout this region. Today they have been driven by land exploitation to find homes farther up. Some 150 of these enormous, gentle apes divided among perhaps 12 families forage now on wild celery and young bamboo in Kahuzi-Biega National Park and World Heritage Site in eastern Kivu province.
Kahuzi-Biega, a 2,316-square-mile (6,000-km2) reserve, takes its name from two extinct volcanoes dominating the physical scene. Its montane habitat ranges from about 2,500 feet (750 m) to 11,000 feet (3,400 m). Here are forest buffalo—smaller than their Cape cousins—forest elephants, forest hogs and in alpine grasslands, antelopes and duikers. An array of primates includes chimpanzees, owl-faced and red and black-and-white colobus monkeys. Among stunning birds are endemic Rockefeller’s sunbirds, Shelley’s crimsonwings, African green broadbills, Grauer’s warblers, and rarely seen yellow-crested helmet-shrikes and Congo peacocks.
Threats have included not only slash-and-burn agriculture, poaching, and gold mining, but aftermath of civil strife in DRC and neighboring Rwanda which brought 1.5 to two million refugees with squatters, deforestation, poaching, occupation of park land, and looting and destruction of facilities.
Plans have been drawn to expand visitor facilities but at least until recently they’re limited largely to tourist hut and bare-bones camping at Tshvanga, where there’s a warden’s office about 31 miles (50 km) west of Bukavu via a road which transects the park east–west. The park staff sometimes leads jungle tours to see habituated families of gorillas. Dry season is June through August.
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