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Virunga National Park*
UNESCO World Heritage Site
State Party  Democratic Republic of the Congo
Type Natural
Criteria vii, viii, x
Reference 63
Region** Africa
Inscription history
Inscription 1979  (3rd Session)
Endangered 1994-
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.
Virunga National Park
IUCN Category II (National Park)
Location Democratic Republic of the Congo
Nearest city Goma
Coordinates 0°55′0″N 29°10′0″E / 0.916667°N 29.166667°E / 0.916667; 29.166667Coordinates: 0°55′0″N 29°10′0″E / 0.916667°N 29.166667°E / 0.916667; 29.166667
Area 7,800 km2 (1,900,000 acres)
Established 1925
Governing body l'Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN)

The Virunga National Park (formerly Albert National Park) lies from the Virunga Mountains, to the Rwenzori Mountains, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda. Covering 7,800 square kilometres (3,000 sq mi) it was established in 1925 as Africa's first national park. It was classified as a World Heritage Site in 1979. 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 park is managed by the Congolese National Park Authorities, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature or ICCN (ICCN) and receives vital funding from the European Union. In August 2008, Dr. Emmanuel de Merode was appointed Director and Chief Warden for the park, commanding a ranger force of 680 men.

The national park covers the western shores of Lake Edward, known for its hippopotami (depleted by more than 95 percent in 2006[1]) 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 and listed as one of the most critically-endangered species, successful conservation work has helped to secure the remaining populations. Their populations actually increased during the years of political upheaval in the region (1994-2004), but renewed military conflict in the park (October 2008) including the seizing of the park headquarters and expelling of park rangers, poaching, and rampant deforestation for illegal charcoal production once again cast doubt on their future [2]. 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.[3] Amongst other military activity, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda or FDLR has been using the park as a safe location when they have come under sustained attack, such as Laurent Nkunda's offensives against them in April-May 2007.[4] The park was occupied by Nkunda's forces on 26 October 2008, during the Battle of Goma.

See also

References

  1. ^ Hippos Butchered by the Hundreds in Congo Wildlife Park (National Geographic article)
  2. ^ Mark Jenkins: "Who murdered the Virunga gorillas?" National Geographic Magazine July 2008
  3. ^ Gorilla Warfare (Newsweek article)
  4. ^ International Crisis Group, Congo: Bringing Peace to North Kivu, Africa Report No.133, 31 October 2007, p.11

External links

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Virunga National Park is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fees/Permits

The standard permit now to see gorillas is $500 US (2007). The same fee applies for gorilla tracking in Uganda, Rwanda and D. R. Congo.

  • Climb Nyiragongo Volcano — This volcano, famous for its lava lake, is a technically easy climb from the direction of Goma. A trip to the top should take ~6-8 hours, so most climbers spend the night at the top. Entrance permits cost US$100. Due to the rebel occupation in late 2009/early 2009, the park is closed until May 2009.
    • Hakuna Matata Tours, [1]. Offers a 2-day climb and tour of Goma. Owner is a native of the region and very friendly. ~$250.  edit

Stay safe

D.R. Congo is renowned as the African country that never seems to experience peace. If you intend to visit Virunga to track gorillas, you would wiser to book early and go to Rwanda or Uganda. Guerilla fractions hide out in the border region between D.R. Congo and Rwanda, and violence is common. Furthermore the authorities in D.R. Congo are renowned for corruption, and it is not uncommon to be detained by border controls until you pay a "special fee" for your release. If you have to go to Virunga, flying into Goma would the safest way (although more expensive), and it would be desirable to leave soon after your trek (although Goma is a very interesting place to visit).

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