Why is Virunga national park so important?
Why is Virunga national park so important? Located in the eastern part of DR Congo at the edge of the Congo basin, Virunga is the second-largest tropical rainforest in Africa. The park is strategically located in the Albertine region protecting endangered mountain gorillas and other wildlife species. Virunga covers a total area of 7,768 sq. km comprising mainly tropical forests. Virunga is very important in so many ways and below are the reasons as to why Virunga national park is important.
Virunga is important for the conservation of tropical forest
Virunga national park is very important for the conservation of the tropical forest, especially the species that are endemic to the Albertine rift region. The forest is one the richest areas in Africa with more than 2077 plant species with 20 primate species, 126 mammals, 109 reptiles, and 706 birds that have found a home. The area comprises wetlands, grasslands, riverine forests, African alpine bamboo, and tropical forests. Apart from acting as a home to different animals, the forest helps in climate change and formational of rainforest in the area that why it rains at any time of the year. It as well helps in filtering the water we drink and preventing soil erosion
Virunga is important for the protection of primates
One of the things making Virunga important are the primates. It’s these primates that have made the national park most especially the mountain gorillas that are found nowhere else in the country but in this park. Mountain gorillas are among the endangered primates in the world but Virunga is lucky to be among the 4 national parks hosting them.
Other primates in Virunga national park are the chimpanzees of which some are habituated for tourism purposes. Another list of primates in this park includes grey-checked mangabeys, red-tailed monkeys, dent’s mona monkeys, central African red colobus, mantled guereza, olive baboon, blue monkeys, and golden monkeys among others.
Virunga is important for harboring mammals
Virunga national park is of great importance because it hosts over 196 mammals. These mammals have found a home in the tropical rainforests of the park and they are normally seen during hiking, trekking, birding, or nature walk activities. Mammals of Virunga include hippos, elephants, buffaloes, okapi, blue duikers, yellow-backed duikers, bay duikers, water chevrotain, red river hog, bushbuck, aardvark, giant forest hogs, topi, bongo, warthogs, mongoose, African leopards, western tree hyrax, pangolin, squirrel, and lions among others.
Virunga is important for hosting birds
Virunga national park is important for harboring different bird species of which some are endangered to the Albertine region. The area protects over 706 different bird species and 20 of these are endemic to the Albertine rift region. Some of the bird species endemic to the Albertine region in Virunga national park include red-throated alethe, Rwenzori turaco, archer’s ground thrush, Rwenzori batis, Kivu ground thrush, mountain masked apalis, collared apalis, strange weaver, handsome spurfowl, stripe-breasted tit, shelly’s crimsonwing, blue-headed sunbird, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, and handsome spurfowl among others.
Other bird species in Virunga national park are Angolan swallow, black-throated wattle-eye, cardinal woodpecker, chinspot batis, mountain illadopsis, brown necked parrot, olive sunbird, blue-headed coucal, malachite sunbird, grey-headed negrofinch, white-browned crombec, mountain sooty boubou, Rwenzori turaco, handsome spurfowl, olive woodpecker, black bishop, collared sunbird, and stripe-breasted tit to mention but a few.
Virunga is important for hosting Virunga volcanoes
Hosting the Virunga volcanoes makes the Virunga national park an important area because that alone has attracted a number of travelers. Virunga national park hosts 3 out of 8 Virunga volcanoes and are Mountain Nyiragongo, Mountain Nyamuragira, and Mountain Mikeno. Mikeno is a dormant volcano while Nyamuragira and Nyiragongo are active volcanoes. Most of the hikers have tried Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira to see the lava lakes at the summit and they are the most active having last erupted in May 2021 and November 2011 respectively.
With some of the importance of Virunga mentioned above, travelers from different parts of the world can visit this park and encounter different wildlife in the area at any time of the year. The best time to travel to this park is always the dry season which occurs from June to September and December to February and in this time, the trekking/hiking trails are less muddy, vegetation is thin with clear views of the park animals and the roads leading to the park are passable.
Those that get time in the rainy season can still visit Virunga national park and they will be able to get huge discounts on accommodation and gorilla permits. The rainy season is from March to May and October to November and is characterized by little or no rainfall that makes the trekking/hiking trails muddy and slippery, animals are not clearly seen due to thick vegetation and the roads leading to the park are impassable.