National Parks: Virunga

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Sabinyo volcano and thick forest, habitat of the endangered Mountain gorilla Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo

by Maimouna Kante

Virunga National Park is Africa’s oldest National Park, it is located east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and is a UNESCO- designated World Heritage Site. The park is known for its biodiversity and geological features.

According to Visit Virunga, the park was established by King Albert I of Belgium as Albert National Park. Establishing the park allowed preservation of the biodiversity that was present. The National Park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes. According to National Geographic, the park has 700 different types of bird species and 200 mammals. Among the many species living there, there are forest elephants, chimpanzees, lowland gorillas and giraffes. Mountain gorillas are listed under the most critically endangered species; the mountain gorillas have been the target of poaching.

Virunga has been severely hit by violence and economic problems in the past years. For example, when Rwanda, one of the neighboring countries of the DRC, was in the midst of a genocide it had tremendous effects of the national park and its biodiversity. Some parts of the park are highlighted by intense levels violence.

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