Virunga National park is one of not the best with diversity in Africa. Almost more than half of what’s in Sub Saharan Africa in concentrated in this park. This park also boasts of two active volcanoes. Virunga national park though has for a long time been threatened by political conflicts in DRC but somehow its still surviving and was recently reopened. Established in 1925 by the then King of Belgium King Albert 1 and it was first called Albert national Park. It was primarily gazetted to protect the endangered Mountain Gorillas which can also be found in Uganda and Rwanda Only. After 1960 when Congo had gotten independence the park deteriorated just like the country and it was not until the early 70s when the president picked interest in conservation that the park was revived and renamed Virunga National Park. The park is about 7800 sq km and stretches from Virunga Mountains in the South to the Rwenzori in the north. The park is well known for its bird, mammal and reptile concentration more than any other protected area in Africa. Some of the notables include chimpanzees, mountain gorillas, giraffes, buffaloes, and many others.
Virunga National Park is the oldest wildlife protected area on the African soil created to protect and conserve the unique wildlife species therein, for science and research purposes and protecting an indigenous threatened fruit-gathering community; the Twa. The Virunga wildlife conservancy is the joint where the West African rainforests meet with the East African savanna grasslands and run more than 300 km (190 mi) along the Albertine rift that splits the African continent from north to south.
The vestiges of Virunga’s rich diverse ecosystem that includes block mountain, volcanic mountains, the Albertine rift, craters and crater lakes, rainforests, woodlands, open grasslands, swamp and wetland vegetation amongst others extend into Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable, Queen Elizabeth, Semliki, Rwenzori and Mgahinga National Park as well as Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Of recent mountain gorillas in Virunga have been the major attraction in this park given the fact that this is among the few parks in the area with these endangered gorillas. People prefer to track the gorillas here also because the cost is low and the park is also less congested compared to other tracking centers like PNV and Bwindi. This park is still fresh for new discoveries since it has not had a lot of tourism activity for a long time since its inception and it would be a good idea for those who want research and adventures in the same line. For some good time, the area has been free for rebel activity and it is safe to travel, there is of course propaganda that the place is not safe but what of the influx of tourists coming in every day.
In 1979, the Virunga has declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of her ecological importance though political upheavals have had negative implications on the conservancy. The 1990’s war period in Rwanda was so challenging to the Virunga because of the high influx of refugees into the Virunga conservancy who encroached on wildlife resources. In 1994, the Virunga conservancy was declared World Heritage in Danger and later became a Ramsar site of international importance in 1996. The Virunga has still rated a strong ecological pillar for the entire east and central African ecosystem.