The Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a protected area near Bukavu town in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is situated near the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwandan border.
Established in 1970 by the Belgian photographer and conservationist Adrien Deschryver, the park is named after two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega (fr), which are within its limits.
With an area of 6,000 square kilometers (2,300 sq mi), 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), an endangered category under the IUCN Red List.
The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1980 for its unique biodiversity of rainforest habitat and its eastern lowland gorillas.
The park lies west of the Bakavu town in South Kivu Province covering an area of 6000 km2. A small part of the park is in Mitumba Mountain range of the Albertine Rift in the Great Rift Valley, and the larger part is in lowland terrain.
A corridor of 7.4 kilometers (4.6 mi) width joins the mountainous and lowland terrain. The eastern part of the park is the smaller mountainous region measuring 600 square kilometers (230 sq mi); the larger part measures 5,400 square kilometers (2,100 sq mi) 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 meters (10,853 ft)) and Biéga (2,790 meters (9,150 ft)).
The park receives an average annual precipitation of 1,800 millimeters (71 in). The maximum temperature recorded in the area is 18 °C (64 °F) while the minimum is 10.4 °C (50.7 °F).
The earliest reserve, Zoological and Forest Reserve of Mount Kahuzi, was created on 27 July 1937 by the then Governor General of the Belgian Colonial administration.
That 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, under Criterion (x) for its unique habitat of rainforest and diversity of the mammal species, particularly the eastern lowland gorillas, Gorilla beringei graueri.
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, as of 2003.
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 meters (3,900 ft) and 1,500 meters (4,900 ft).
The eastern mountainous sector includes continuous forest vegetation from 600 meters (2,000 ft) to over 2,600 meters (8,500 ft), 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 meters (6,600 ft) and 2,400 meters (7,900 ft), bamboo forest grows between 2,350 meters (7,710 ft) and 2,600 meters (8,500 ft), and the summits of Mounts Kahuzi and Biéga above 2,600 meters (8,500 ft) have subalpine heather, dry savannah, and grasslands, as well as the endemic plant Senecio kahuzicus.
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 (Loxodonta cyclotis)
Albertine owlet (Glaucidium albertinum)
Eastern chimpanzee (Pan-troglodytes schweinfurthii)
Mount Kahuzi climbing mouse (Dendromus kahuziensis)
Maclaud’s horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus maclaudi)
The species of fauna listed under the IUCN Red List as least concern or near threatened include:
Lowland bongo (Tragelaphus eurycerus eurycerus)
African forest buffalo (Syncerus caffer nanus)
Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Giant forest hog (Hylochoerus meinertzhageni)
Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Ruwenzori otter shrew (Micropotamogale ruwenzorii)
Olive baboon (Papio-anubis)
Avi-fauna on the IUCN Red List is also mentioned:
Yellow-crested Helmet-shrike (Prionops alberti)
Congo peafowl (Afropavo congensis)
African green broadbill (Pseudocalyptomena graueri)
Rockefeller’s sunbird (Nectarinia rockefelleri).
The park, under the management of the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, has a basic management and surveillance structure.
However, the park’s 1975 expansion, which included inhabited lowland areas, resulted in forced evacuations with about 13,000 people of the tribal community of Shi, Tembo and Rega affected and refusing to leave.
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.