Virunga National Park Facts

Virunga National Park Facts
Virunga National Park is a 1.9 million acre park located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Africa. It was the first national park to be established on the African continent and it borders three other national parks including Queen Elizabeth National Park (Uganda), Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda), and Rwenzori Mountains National Park (Uganda). In 1979 UNESCO designated the park as a World Heritage Site, but the wildlife in the park has suffered in recent years due to poaching and civil war. When the park was originally established, it was named Albert National Park, for its founder King Albert I of Belgium. The main reason for the park's creation was to protect the mountain gorillas that lived in the mountains.
Interesting Virunga National Park Facts:
During the first 35 years of the park's existence it was well managed. The boundaries were established and poachers were controlled. Tourism was sustainable.
In 1960 Congo gained its independence from Belgium and the park management deteriorated.
In 1969 the new president of the Congo, Mobutu, revived conservation and the park was renamed Virunga National Park.
In the 1970s the park began to thrive with the help of foreign investment and interest, but in the 1980s Mobutu lost much of his power and chaos ensued.
In the 1980s UNESCO changed the status of the park to endangered, as poaching and chaos was destroying its resources.
Virunga National Park is currently being explored for oil extraction which would see 80% of the park used for this purpose.
In the southern region of the park the landscape consists of montane tropical forests, alpine forests, and it has old and new lava flows.
In the central region of the park the landscape consists of African savannah, marshes, riverine forests, and lake shores.
In the northern region of the park the landscape consist of lake shores, African savannah, riverine forests, alpine forests, and glaciers.
Wildlife found in Virunga National Park includes mountain gorillas, lions, chimpanzees, hippos, elephants, giraffes, and buffalos, and poaching is an ongoing concern.
Park rangers are often killed by poachers when trying to protect the wildlife.
Large numbers of birds migrate to Virunga National Park from Siberia each year to escape the winter. There are also many rare bird species found in the park.
Roughly one quarter of the world's population of the endangered mountain gorilla species is located in Virunga National park.
Virunga is the world's only park to house three great ape species, including the mountain gorilla, chimpanzees, and Grauer's gorillas.
The Okapi is a zebra/giraffe type species, considered to be endangered. It is found in Virunga.
A documentary titled Virunga received an Oscar (Academy Award) nomination in 2015. The film highlights the conservation challenges to the park, which is Africa's oldest national park.
Rangers in Virunga National Park are always on the lookout for snares, which are set in place by poachers to kill wildlife.
A gorilla trafficking ring was stopped when rangers from Virunga National Park caught a trafficker trying to sell one of the park's baby gorillas at the airport in Goma.


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