Virunga National Park

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Virunga National Park
IUCN Category II (National Park)
Location: Democratic Republic of the Congo
Nearest city: Goma
Coordinates: 0°55′″N, 29°10′″E
Area: 7,800 km²
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 Ruwenzori Mountains, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Volcans National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori National Park in Uganda. Covering 7,800 km² it was established in 1925 as Africa's first National Park. It is also the second in the world after Yellowstone, and 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 (ICCN).

The national park covers the western shores of Lake Edward, known for its hippopotamuses (now badly depleted by more than 95%)while elsewhere, marshland, grassland plateau and plains dominate the park. The Rwenzori 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, successful conservation work has secured the remaining populations. In fact, they increased during the years of political upheaval in the region (1994-2004). 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 has challenged the park authorities to the limit, but most rangers have remained active. 92 rangers have been reported killed in action protecting the park from illegal poaching and land acquisition.

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Virunga National Park

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