Kahuzi – Biega National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo
Kahuzi – Biega National Park is one of the protected areas in Democratic Republic of Congo situated near the town of Bukavu town. The park is positioned near the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border. Established in 1970 by the Belgian photographer and conservationist Adrien Deschryver, the park derives its name from the two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega which are within its premises.
Kahuzi – Biega National Park is one of the largest national parks in Democratic Republic of Congo covering an area of approximately 6,000 square kilometers. The park is one of the last homes of the rare species of Eastern lowland gorilla – an endangered category under the IUCN Red List since it is set in both mountainous and lowland terrain. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 because of its rich biodiversity of rainforest habitat and its eastern lowland gorillas.
Kahuzi – Biega National Park is located west of the Bukavu town in South Kivu Province sitting on area of approximately 6,000 square kilometers. Part of the park is located in Mitumba Mountain range of the Albertine Rift in the Great Rift Valley and the larger part is in the lowland terrain. These features are joined with a corridor of 7.4 kilometers. The eastern part of the park is a mountainous region covering an area of 600 square kilometers and the larger part consists of the lowland measuring 5,400 square kilometers and it stretches from Bukavu to Kisangani and drained by the Luka and Lugulu rivers which flow into the Lualaba River. The park also consists of the dormant volcanoes in which the park got its name.
Flora of the park
Kahuzi – Biega National Park consists of the rare riparian forests, bogs, swamps, and the marshland on the hydromorphic ground at all altitudes. The western lowland region of the park is encompassed by the dense Guineo – Congolian wet equatorial rainforest and also has part of the northeastern Congolian lowland forests. The eastern mountainous sector of the park contains continuous forest vegetation and this is one of the rare sites in sub Saharan Africa which demonstrates all stages of the low to highland transition including the six distinguishable primary vegetation types – swamp and peat bog, swamp forest, high altitude rainforests, mountain rainforest, subalpine heather, and bamboo forest. The montane rain forests are part of the Albertine Rift montane forests.
Wildlife of the park
Kahuzi – Biega National Park is a home to a greater diversity of mammal species than other national parks in the Albertine Rift. The park records more than 136 mammal species and of these the eastern lowland gorilla is the most common. According to the survey made in 2008, the park had more than 125 lowland gorillas. The park is also a habitat to a variety of rare species and according to the census made in April 2011 by the Wildlife Conservation Society, over 181 mountain gorillas were recorded in the park.
Aside the mountain gorillas, other primate species in the park include the eastern chimpanzees; the owl faced monkeys, several cercopithecinae, and colobinae. Other mammal species in the park besides the primates include the bush buffalos, African bush elephants, hylochere, bongo, eastern needle clawed galago, Alexander’s bush squirrel, Ruwenzori least otter shrew, Maclaud’s horseshoe bat, and others. The park is also a home to two species of genet that are endemic to the Congo Basin and these are; the aquatic genet, and the giant forest genet.
Kahuzi – Biega National Park is a home to more than 349 bird species and 42 of these are endemic to the region. Among these include the threatened Albertine owlet. Other native species of birds in the park include the yellow crested helmet shrike, the Congo peafowl, the African green broadbill, the Rockefeller’s sunbird and many others.
In a survey made in 2020 of the freshwater fish in the park, more than 147 species were identified and of these, 11 species were found endemic to the Lowa River basin.