Virunga National Park

Virunga National Park is a national park in the Albertine Rift Valley in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was created in 1925 and is among the first protected areas in Africa. In elevation, it ranges from 680 m (2,230 ft) in the Semliki River valley to 5,109 m (16,762 ft) in the Rwenzori Mountains. From north to south it extends approximately 300 km (190 mi), largely along the international borders with Uganda and Rwanda in the east. It covers an area of 8,090 km2 (3,120 sq mi).

Two active volcanoes are located in the park, Mount Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. They have significantly shaped the national park’s diverse habitats and wildlife. More than 3,000 faunal and floral species have been recorded, of which more than 300 are endemic to the Albertine Rift including eastern gorilla (Gorilla beringei) and golden monkey (Cercopithecus kandti).

In 1979, the National Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its rich diversity of habitats, exceptional biodiversity and endemism, and its protection of rare mountain gorilla habitat. It has been listed in the List of World Heritage.

Endemic to Congo

Bonobo Chimps

The bonobo ( Pan paniscus), also historically called the pygmy chimpanzee and, less often, the dwarf or gracile chimpanzee, is an endangered great ape. It is one of the two species making up the genus Pan, the other being the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes). Although bonobos are not a subspecies of chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), but rather a distinct species in their own right, both species are sometimes referred to collectively using the generalized term chimpanzees, or chimps. Taxonomically, the members of the chimpanzee/bonobo subtribe Panina (composed entirely by the genus ) are collectively termed panins.

The bonobo is distinguished by relatively long legs, pink lips, dark face, tail-tuft through adulthood, and parted long hair on its head. The bonobo is found in a 500,000 km2 (190,000 sq mi) area of the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central Africa. The species is frugivorous and inhabits primary and secondary forests, including seasonally inundated swamp forests. Because of political instability in the region and the timidity of bonobos, there has been relatively little field work done observing the species in its natural habitat.

CONGO LOW LAND GORILLAS

The lowland gorillas can be distinguished from other gorilla subspecies by their slightly smaller size, their brown-grey coats and auburn chests. They also have wider skulls with more pronounced brow ridges and smaller ears. Large numbers have not protected the lowland gorilla from decline. Because of poaching and disease, the gorilla’s numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20 to 25 years.

NYIRAGONGO MOUNTAINS

Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,470 m (11,385 ft) in the Virunga Mountains associated with the Albertine Rift. It is located inside Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, about 12 km (7.5 mi) north of the town of Goma and Lake Kivu and just west of the border with Rwanda. The main crater is about two kilometres (1 mi) wide and usually contains a lava lake. The crater presently has two distinct cooled lava benches within the crater walls – one at about 3,175 m (10,417 ft) and a lower one at about 2,975 m (9,760 ft).

Nyiragongo’s lava lake has at times been the most voluminous known lava lake in recent history. The depth of the lava lake varies considerably. A maximum elevation of the lava lake was recorded at about 3,250 m (10,660 ft) prior to the January 1977 eruption – a lake depth of about 600 m (2,000 ft). Following the January 2002 eruption, the lava lake was recorded at a low of about 2,600 m (8,500 ft), or 900 m (3,000 ft) below the rim. The level has gradually risen since then. Nyiragongo and nearby Nyamuragira are together responsible for 40 per cent of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.

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