Kahuzi-Biega National Park
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 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, the park is named after two dormant volcanoes, Mount Kahuzi and Mount Biega, which are within its limits. With an area of 6,000 square kilometers.
The 75,000ha of land covered by park consists of the Mitumba Mountain range, the western mountains of the Great Rift Valley. The two main peaks, Mount Kahuzi (3,308 m) and Mount Biéga (2,790 m) are extinct volcanoes, and the massif dates from the late Tertiary or early Quaternary.The lowland sector in the Zairean central basin covers the watersheds of the tributaries of the Luka and Lugulu rivers.
These both drain into the River Lualaba. The extension lies below 1,500 m apart from isolated peaks such as Mount Kamani (1,700 m), and consists of mountains cut by deep valleys. Undulating terrain in the west forms a belt between the two zones.
Straddling the Albertine Rift and the Congo Basin, Kahuzi-Biega National Park is an exceptional habitat for the protection of the rainforest and the eastern lowland gorillas, Gorilla berengei graueri. Extending over 600,000 ha, are dense lowland rainforests as well as Afro-montane forests, with bamboo forests and some small areas of sub-alpine prairies and heather on Mounts Kahuzi (3,308 m) and Biega (2,790 m).
The Park contains a flora and fauna of exceptional diversity, making it one of the most vital sites in the Albertine Rift Valley region, it is also one of the ecologically richest regions of Africa and worldwide. In particular, the most important world population of eastern lowland gorillas that use the mosaic of habitats found in the areas covered by Kahuzi-Biega National Park.
Kahuzi-Biega National Park contains a greater diversity of mammal species than any other site in the Albertine Rift Valley Region. It is the second most important site of the region for both endemic species and in terms of specific diversity. The Park protects 136 species of mammals, among which the star is the eastern lowland gorilla and thirteen other primates, including threatened species such as the chimpanzee, the colubus bai and cercopiuthic of Hoest and Hamlyn. Other extremely rare species of the eastern forests of the DRC are also found, such as the giant forest genet and the aquatic genet. Characteristic mammals of the central African forests also live in the Park, such as the bush elephant, bush buffalo, hylochere and bongo.
The park is situated in an important endemism zone (Endemic Bird Area) for birds identified by Birdlife International. The Wildlife Conservation Society established a complete list of birds in the Park in 2003 with 349 species, including 42 endemic. Also, the Park was designated as a centre of diversity for plants by IUCN and WWF in 1994, with at least 1,178 inventoried species in the highland zone, although the lowland yet remains to be recorded.
The Park is one of the rare sites of sub-Saharan Africa where the flora and fauna transition from low to highlands is observable. In effect, it includes all the stages of forest vegetation from 600 m to more than 2,600 m, dense low and middle altitude rainforests to sub-mountain to mountain and bamboo forests. Above 2,600 m at the summit of Mounts Kahuzi and Biega, sub-alpine vegetation has developed, with heather, and home to the endemic plant Senecio kahuzicus. The Park also contains plant formations, rare worldwide, such as the swamp and bog altitudes and the marshland and riparian forests on hydromorphic ground at all altitudes.
Birds in Kahuzi Beiga National Park
A rich diversity of birdlife is found within the park. Thirty of the 336 species birds found in the park are endemic to the Albertine Rift, including the Rockefeller’s sunbird, Ruwenzori Turaco, Grauer’s broadbill, Grauer’s warbler and Shelley’s crimsonwing. Birds play an important role in dispersing seeds throughout the park. Some species digest and excrete the seed, allowing seedlings to be spread far from the parent tree.
The hot, humid temperature in the lowland region is also ideal for insects that decompose plant material. A single leaf on the forest floor can be “digested” in only two months. Ants and termites alone account for more than 30% of the total biomass in a tropical forest.