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Location: Map

Area: 10,830 km²

Official site

Virunga National Park (Parc National des Virunga)

Virunga National Park (Parc National des Virunga)







Description of Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park or Parc National des Virunga is one of the most famous national parks in Congo. Virunga National Park that was formerly known as Albert National Park covers an area of 10,830 km². It protects mountain jungles of Virunga and Rwenzori Mountain ranges as well as vast stretches of savannah. It is famous for a rich diversity of species, but its most famous resident are scores of gorillas that live here in family groups. This ape suffered years of relentless hunting so this park is one of the few places in the World where you can see these animals in the wild.




On October 17, 1902, Oscar von Bering, the captain of the German army in German East Africa, shot a large gorilla while hunting in the vicinity of Sabinio peak. Prior to this, it was believed that the gorilla range is limited only to the region in West Africa, near the coast of the Gulf of Guinea, therefore, given the distance of Virung from the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Oscar von Beringe suggested that the monkey killed by him might belong to a new species of gorillas unknown to science and sent a skeleton animal scientists in Germany. The German anatomists, collecting the resulting gorilla skeleton and comparing it with the skeleton of the famous western coastal gorilla, found 34 morphological differences between them.

In 1903, mammalian researcher Paul Matschie described a new subspecies of gorilla named after its discoverer Gorilla gorilla beringei, the gorilla bering.

Subsequently, for almost 20 years, no one was engaged in the study of gorillas in the Virunga Mountains. This was due to the uncertain political status of this territory: in the late XIX - early XX centuries, three European powers immediately claimed rights to it: Belgium, Great Britain and Germany. The final demarcation of the colonial borders in the Virunga mountains was carried out only in 1910. Further research activity was hindered by the First World War.

After the war ended, the northwestern part of the GVA (Rwanda-Urundi) came under the control of Belgium. For 40 years, most of the territory of the Virunga Mountains was under the control of one state.

In 1921, an expedition led by renowned American naturalist, sculptor and taxidermist Carl Akeley was organized by the American Museum of Natural History in the Virunga Mountains. Among other things, Aykley’s task was to shoot several monkeys and make them stuffed for the museum. Ackley coped with this task and obtained five gorillas, making them magnificent stuffed animals, but the main result of his expedition was different. Tracking mountain gorillas for several months and observing their life in foggy mountain forests, Karl Eyckley was the first to establish that eastern gorillas live in stable family groups with an average of 10 individuals, each consisting of one adult male, several adult females, and their offspring. He especially noted very strong bonds in groups of gorillas, which potentially makes it very difficult to catch monkeys to transfer them to zoos: when one animal is caught, the whole family comes to the rescue, so the catchers will have to kill his relatives. Aykley also determined that the density of the eastern gorillas is very low, and the entire subspecies range in the Virunga area is very small in area and represents the slopes of six volcanoes - a stretch of about 40 and a width of 3 to 19 km. The main conclusion reached by Aikley as a result of the expedition was that these beautiful and very rare animals should be saved in the wild, and not stuffed animals and exhibits of zoos should be made of them.

In 1925, Aikley arrived in Belgium with the aim of attracting the attention of the government of this country to the problem of the conservation of mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. He managed to convince King Albert I that the most effective way to save these rare animals would be to organize a conservation area throughout Virung. So in Africa appeared the first biosphere reserve - Alberta National Park. Aykli personally outlined the boundaries of the reserve, including in it the entire territory of the habitat of gorillas.

In the spring of 1926, Ackley embarks on a new expedition to the Virunga Mountains, hoping to study in more detail the gorillas and other representatives of the animal world of the newly created national park. However, Karl did not succeed in fulfilling his plan, since in the fall of that year he fell ill and died on November 18 in a small village on the outskirts of the gorilla reserve he created. When dying, Karl Aykley bequeathed to bury him there, on the “meadows of Cabaret” (the slope of the Myceno volcano), in his opinion, a beautiful and quiet place in the world.

In 1960, the Democratic Republic of the Congo gained independence. In 1962, Rwanda gained independence. The National Park was renamed Kivu, and in 1969, the unified conservation facility was divided into the Virunga National Park (in Zaire) and the Volcanoes National Park (in Rwanda).




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