Kahuzi-Biega National Park

The Kahuzi-Biega National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been gazetted in 1970 with the main goal to protect some of the last Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri). Named after the higher peaks within the area, which are in fact extict volcanoes, Kahuzi (3.300 m a.s.l.) and Biega (2.790 m a.s.l.), it comprises about 6.000 square kilometers of forest, and it ranges from the lowland sector at 600 m a.s.l. to the top of mount Kahuzi. The mountain sector lays entirely north to Bukavu town, along the lake Kivu, thus in one of the most densely populated area of DRC. Kahuzi-Biega National Park is a World Heritage Site since 1990 and, unfortunately, is listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger since 1997, due to the unceasing conflicts, political instability and economic interests that shaped this side of DRC, which still today threaten the future of the forest. However, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN), and some international institutions as the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) are protecting and monitoring the park, despite the unsafety of the region discourages most tourists to visit it.

While thousands visited the park before the ’70, nowadays very few cross the border to DRC, focusing only to one-day visits to the habituated families of gorillas. Nonetheless, Kahuzi-Biega National Park could be a true paradise for hikers and bio-watchers, thanks to its immense heritage of lowland and highland habitats, mountains, landscapes, and, of course, thanks to its stunningly rich flora and fauna. During november 2011 I’ve been in the park for a couple of weeks, within a wider survey program on the herpetofauna of the Albertine Rift.

Thanks to Michele Menegon, Dominik Hügli and WCS and National Park staff.