Kahuzi-Biega National Park


History:

photo
The lowland large area on the left and the highland smaller area on the right.

The park is named after Mt. Kahuzi (3,308m) and Mt. Biega (2, 790m) located in the South Kivu Province, eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It spreads from the Congo River basin near Itebero-Utu to the northwest of Bukavu.


In 1937, for the protection of the Eastern Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri), the Belgian colonial administration created the Zoological Reserve of Mt. Kahuzi with a surface of 750 sq. km.

In 1970 it was reduced to 600 sq. km and gazetted as Kahuzi-Biega National Park.

In 1975 the surface was extended to 6,000 sq. km. Since this extension, the park has been composed of two sectors (the high and the low altitude) linked by the narrow ecological corridor.

monument
A sign board and a monument at the Park HQ office at Tchivanga.

In 1980 The Kahuzi-Biega National Park was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage.


However, a huge number of Rwandan refugees came to live in and around the KBNP due to the internal conflict in Rwanda in 1990-1994. Then there were two major wars in the area; the First Congo War (Nov. 1996 - May 1997) and the Second Congo War (Aug. 1998 - July 2003). Consequently the park has been put in the list of World Heritage in Danger since 1997 due to the overwhelming threats and danger caused by the political instability; influx of refugees, illegal settlers, poaching, removal and burning of timber, presence of militia groups.


Today the situation has much improved and the park authority, the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN) is operating vigorously to monitor the gorillas and protect the park.


Visit the official blog of Kahuzi-Biega National Park: http://kahuzibiega.wordpress.com/

Location of the Park:


View Kahuzi-Biega National Park in a larger map

Fauna and Flora:

infants and SB moving
Infants moving and a silver back sitting behind.

As one part of the Congo Basin Forest, the KBNP has a rich biological diversity. The forests are diverse and have many endemic plant species. The range of its fauna is also very extensive. Apart from the Eastern Lowland Gorilla, there are other mammal species such as forest elephant, chimpanzee, antelope, genet and serval, bush hog and also a variety of birds, reptiles and amphibians.


Climate:

Rain season is April-May and October-January. The monthly average temperature for a year in Bukavu is between 19C and 21C. The temperature in the park would be a bit cooler than in Bukavu. It can be cool in the evening and you need a sweater or jacket.


Here is a weather focast of Bukavu for today and tomorrow.

Bukavu
Day Min Max Wind Weather
Tue
02nd
14°C 23°C
ESE

1 m/s

Wed
03rd
17°C 26°C
S

1 m/s


History of Gorilla tracking:

The Eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) were the first sub-specie to be visited by tourists early 1970s. In the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, two gorilla groups had been already habituated to human presence through the efforts of Adrian Deschryver and some dedicated Congolese staff. Those habituated gorillas were Casimir and Mushamuka.


The impact on the gorilla tourism was positive for the communities around the park because it was generating a lot of different kind of incomes. Tourists bought locally made souvenirs, local foods, stayed at hotels, repaired shoes locally, etc. Unfortunately, Casimir, one of the first habituated groups, died around 1974 but by the 1980's the KBNP had four habituated gorilla groups, namely Mushamuka, Maheshe, Ninja and Mubalala. The gorilla tracking became more famous after the film “Gorillas in the Mist” released in 1988. Tourists came from all over the world and visited not only the mountain gorillas but also the eastern lowland gorillas.


Due to the unstable situation that started in the mid-1990's, this area has acquired negative images and it's been preventing the potential tourists from visiting the KBNP. But the security situation of this area has now improved much and the local citizens are living in peace and the gorillas roam all over the forest without any problems. Some visitors visit the park repeatedly to see the gorillas. In 2009 over 200 foreigners came from many countries to visit the gorillas.


The war in the DRC caused the death of the four above-mentioned silverback gorillas. But survivors of their group members are still alive today and are visited by tourists. As of May 2011, people can easily visit Cimanuka of 37 gorillas and Mugaruka of 1 gorilla.


Other park attractions:

The Kahuzi-Biega National Park covers other attractions beside the gorillas. Visitor can also visit the Lwiro falls or walk to Mt. Bugulumiza to view the panorama of area. Unfortunately, the hiking on both mountains, Mt. Kahuzi (3308m) and Mt. Biega (2709m) is not yet allowed by the park authority.


For the future:

photo
The Minister of Environment visiting a POPOF's nursery.

By the fact that the Park is surrounded by the area of high population density, it is facing serious threat caused by local people searching for natural resources. A lot of people still practice bushmeat hunting and also harvest fruits, wild vegetables, mushrooms and honey from the park. Without effective strategies aiming at integrating the local communities into the conservation effort while improving their economy and living conditions, there will not be a sustainable future. Effective and steady efforts for the conservation and better economy are immediately needed.


It is from this reality that the POPOF-I, with the support of its partners and friends, initiated several programs of the afforestation, artisan, environmental education and so on, for the profit of the communities around the Kahuzi-Biega National Park.