Facts About Kahuzi Biega National Park – Eastern Lowland gorillas
In the Famous Eastern democratic republic of congo which is the tourism hub , after mountain gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park & nyiragongo Climbing in Goma Region , the second tourists attraction in the region is the Eastern Lowland gorillas & Lwiro Chimpanzee Tracking in Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Kahuzi Biega National Park is the only destination where Eastern lowland gorilla trekking is done with the second alternative park known for being the home of these lowland gorillas being Maiko National Park but notyet open for tourism Activities .
Explore Kahuzi Biega National Park : Gorilla Trekking in Congo
The Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a conservation area located near Bukavu town in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. The park gets its name from the two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, which are within its boundaries. The park was established in 1970 as a conservation area by the Belgian photographer and conservationist Adrien Deschryver. Covering an area of about 6000 square kilometers, Kahuzi-Biega is one of the biggest national parks in the country. Set in both mountainous and lowland terrain, it is one of the last refuges of the rare species of Eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri), which is an endangered gorilla specie.
The area was first made a conservation area in 1937 by the governor general of the Belgian colonial administration who made it a zoological and forest reserve.
The reserve has been part of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park since November 1970. Five years later, the park was extended to cover 6000 km2. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980, because of its unique habitat of rain forest and diversity of the mammal species, particularly the eastern lowland gorillas, Gorilla beringei graueri.
Kahuzi biega national park is located west of the Bakavu town in South Kivu Province, and covers an area of 6,000 km2. The larger part is in lowland terrain and a small part of the park is in Mitumba Mountain range of the Albertine Rift in the Great Rift Valley. A corridor of 7.4 km width joins the mountainous and lowland terrain. The eastern part of the park is the smaller mountainous region measuring 600 km2; the larger part measures 5,400 km2 and consists mainly of lowland stretching from Bukavu to Kisangani, drained by the Luka and Lugulu rivers which flow into the Lualaba River. Two dormant volcanoes are set within the park’s limits and lend their names to it: Kahuzi (3,308 m) and Biéga (2,790 m).
The park receives an average annual precipitation of 1,800 mm (71 in). The maximum temperature recorded in the area is 18 degrees celsius while the minimum is 10.4 degrees Celsius.
Flora and fauna
The park has a rich diversity of flora and fauna and provides protection to 1,178 plant species in the mountainous region of the park, with some 136 species of mammals 349 species of birds. The forests of the property are characterized by continuous vegetation from the summit of the mountains to the lowland regions. A corridor connects a highland zone of 60,000 ha to a lowland sector of 540,000 ha. The area of the property is considered as sufficient to maintain its fauna. Maintenance of the sustainability of the vegetation is essential to avoid the fragmentation of animal populations, in particular the large mammals.
The park’s swamps, bogs, marshland and riparian forests on hydromorphic ground at all altitudes are rare worldwide. The western lowland sector of the park is dominated by dense Guineo-Congolian wet equatorial rainforest, with an area of transition forest between 1,200 metres and 1,500 metres. The eastern mountainous sector includes continuous forest vegetation from 600 metres to over 2,600 metres, and is one of the rare sites in Sub-Saharan Africa which demonstrates all stages of the low to highland transition, including six distinguishable primary vegetation types: swamp and peat bog, swamp forest, high-altitude rainforest, mountain rainforest, bamboo forest and subalpine heather. Mountain and swamp forest grows between 2,000 metres) and 2,400 metres bamboo forest grows between 2,350 metres and 2,600 metres, and the summits of Mounts Kahuzi and Biéga above 2,600 metres, have subalpine heather, dry savannah, and grasslands, as well as the endemic plant Senecio kahuzicus.
An Eastern lowland gorilla in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Among the 136 species of mammals identified in the park, the eastern lowland gorilla is the most prominent. According to a 2008 status report of the DR of Congo, the park had 125 lowland gorillas, a marked reduction from the figure of 600 gorillas of the pre-1990’s conflict period, and consequently the species has been listed in the endangered list. The park is the last refuge of this rare species. According to the census survey of eastern lowland gorillas reported by the Wildlife Conservation Society in April 2011, at least 181 gorillas were recorded in the park.
Other primates include the eastern chimpanzee, and several Cercopithecinae, Colobinae and owl-faced monkey. Some of the mammals include the bush elephant, bush buffalo, hylochere and bongo, Aquatic civet, eastern needle-clawed galago, Maclaud’s horseshoe bat, Ruwenzori least otter shrew, and Alexander’s bush squirrel.
The species of fauna listed under the IUCN Red List as threatened include: African forest elephant, Albertine owlet, Eastern chimpanzee, Mount Kahuzi climbing mouse, Maclaud’s horseshoe bat
The species of fauna listed under the IUCN Red List as least concern or near threatened include: Lowland bongo, African forest buffalo, Hippopotamus, Giant forest hog, Leopard, Ruwenzori otter shrew, Olive baboon
Avifauna on the IUCN Red List are also mentioned: Yellow-crested Helmet-shrike, Congo peafowl, African green broadbill, Rockefeller’s sunbird.
Conservation Projects in Kahuzi Biega National Park
The property is protected by the National Park legal status and managed by the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN). A management and surveillance structure is present. A management plan should be finalized and approved.
However, the park was expanded in 1975 and included inhabited lowland areas, which resulted in forced evacuations with about 13,000 people of the tribal community of Shi, Tembo and Rega affected and refusing to leave hence creating disputes with the populations. These problems must be resolved to strengthen the effectiveness of conservation actions. Cooperation by the communities living around the park and employment of the Twa people to enforce park protection was pursued by the park authorities. In 1999 a plan was developed to protect the people and the resources of the park.
The boundaries of the property should also be clearly delineated, especially where there are no evident natural boundaries. This is particularly important both in the lowlands and the key corridor connecting the high and low biographic regions of the Park.
The highland sector is crossed by a national road with minimal traffic. The control of the traffic flow is important to avoid an impact on the populations of threatened species in this sector, notably the gorillas.
At the time of the inscription of the property in 1980, challenges of protection and management had been highlighted, including the economic problems that have caused a serious reduction in the effectiveness of the management and necessary protection to guarantee the survival of species in the Park and the sustainability of its ecosystems. It was also noted that because of logistical problems large areas of the Park were only rarely observed, even never visited by the under-staffed guards, and poaching has since increased.
Political instability in the region, provoking the displacement of thousands of people, represents a very serious threat to the integrity of the property, resources and populations of large mammals in the Park have declined dramatically. The Park does not have a designated buffer zone, supporting cooperation of the neighbour populations in the conservation of the property is one of the principal tasks of management, in particular in the zones of heavy human density.
Another key challenge is that of the control of poaching and artisanal oil exploration in the former extraction sites. Hunting of wild game for bush meat as well as the conversion of habitats are considered the consequence of the presence of numerous miners in the Park. With the financial and human resources being insufficient, it becomes imperative to obtain additional means to strengthen the effectiveness of management including, ideally, the creation of a Trust Fund.