Sunday, 18 September 2016

DRC: Kahuzi-Biega National Park endangered

The
Kahuzi-Biega National Park in
eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
is under threat.
The park is a protected
area near Bukavu town, and situated
near the western bank of Lake Kivu
and the Rwandan border. But this
nature reserve is almost converting
into a commercial venture. Nearly
1,800 tons of charcoal are extracted
here every month.
Farmers have encroached the park,
even though it is forbidden.
One of the biggest threats to the park
is poaching and trade of gorilla babies,
which has put the world’s largest ape,
the eastern lowland gorilla, on the
verge of extinction
“You must know that to get a baby
gorilla, you must shoot down all its
family members. This is a very
dangerous kind of poaching. We can
still perhaps tolerate poaching to
sustain livelihoods, but commercial
poaching is very destructive,” explains
Nkulu Kalala, a warden of the park.
According to Josue Aruna, the
president of the civil environmental
society of North Kivu, the human
activities and encroachment come
about as a result of extreme poverty
that has struck local populations.
“The communities will quickly turn to
this ecosystem that is very close to
them to meet their economic and
social needs. This population pressure
in the ecosystem is related to the
poverty of the population and high
population growth around the national
park especially in the high-altitude
part,” he says.
The current state of affairs in this park
has affected tourist numbers, which
are now running low, and the local
population is hurting.
“We would receive like forty tourists a
day, that’s about eight people per
family. Today, we can even go for a
whole week without receiving a single
guest. Only during weekends.
Personally, I have never received more
than ten tourists,“says Lambert
Mongane.
With it’s exceptional biodiversity of
flora and fauna, the Kahuzi-Biega park
is home to some 136 species of
mammals, with the eastern lowland
gorilla being the most prominent,
according to a site dedicated to its
conservation.
Among the mammal species are twelve
species of primates, amongst them
eastern chimpanzees and colobus, as
well as forest elephants, leopards,
civets, gennets, otters and many
antelope and duiker. 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,
There are a further 69 species of
reptiles and 44 species of amphibians.
The park is also hotspot for endemic
plant varieties; 1,178 species have
been identified in the high altitude
sector alone. It is one of the few
places in sub-Saharan Africa where a
full and stunning transition of
vegetation stages can be found,
ranging from the low altitude sector at
600m to the peak of Mont Kahuzi at
3,308m.
The park whose conservation has been
disrupted by wars and unrest, is one of
the five World Heritage Sites in DR
Congo.
The park was gazetted by the
Congolese government in 1970 to
conserve the Grauer’s gorilla, the
world’s largest gorilla species. It
remains the only place in the world
where visitors can see these gorillas in
the wild. The park covers an area of
6000 km2 and protects a mountain
forest in eastern DR Congo, which is
the most densely populated region of
the country. The park is named after
the two spectacular extinct volcanoes
which dominate its high altitude sector,
Mont Kahuzi (3,308m) and Mont Biega
(2,790m).