Volcanoes National Park (French: Parc National des Volcans) lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. The national park is known as a haven for the mountain gorilla. It is home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo), which are covered in rainforest and bamboo.
Rwanda_mt.sabyinyoThe mountain gorillas of the Virunga Volcano Massif have been the subject of intense research and conservation efforts by the Karisoke Research Center spanning more than 40 years, but many questions remain concerning the relationship between ecological conditions and the population dynamics of the gorillas. Despite two decades of political instability, the mountain gorilla population of the Virunga Volcanoes has received intense conservation efforts such as ranger-based monitoring and veterinary interventions and increased in size over the past decades, from 250 gorillas in the mid-1980s to 480 in 2010.
Diane Fossey Mt.gorilla conservation activist
gorilla_troup_virunga_Rwanda However, this increase has not been uniformly distributed across the Virunga Massif. The gorilla groups studied by the Karisoke Research Center now live in much larger social groups than average and at a density 2-3 times that from the 1970s. The Karisoke area, i.e. the area between Mount Visoke and Mount Karisimbi, also has a higher population density than other areas in the Greater Virunga Landscape such as the eastern volcanoes. This unequal distribution has been attributed to either difference in the intensity of anthropogenic disturbance or differences in habitat structure/composition. Plant species composition and the biomass and density of foods consumed by gorillas are heterogeneous across the Virungas. The Karisoke study area is characterized by a large proportion of open herbaceous vegetation zones where food biomass and nutritional quality (e.g. protein content) are highest.
While the recovery of the Virunga gorilla population is certainly a success story, we do not know what impact this dramatic increase in gorilla numbers/density in the Karisoke area is having on the habitat. The habitat available to the gorillas is limited because of the high human density in the surrounding areas and extensive encroachment in the past. The population is confined to an island in a sea of farmland, and it is both the growing population and the compressed habitat that may eventually push them to the carrying capacity, i.e. the natural limit of a population set by resources in a particular environment.
Mountain gorilla tracking
mountain_gorilla_trekking_in Rwanda mountain gorilla tracking remains the most popular in the park, with over a total of 40 permits issued daily, eight for each of the five habituated troops. But Volcanoes National Park is not only for gorilla tracking but other activities like trekking, hiking which are now well organized, from a two-day ascent of Karisimbi to a non-strenuous nature walk to a cluster of craters later, but the most exciting achievement is that visitors can now visit habituated troop of the near-endemic golden monkey.
This trek involves a 30-minute drive from the park headquarters to the trailhead than a 10-minute stroll to the park boundary. From here, the climb through the forest takes from 90 minutes to three hours, depending on your fitness and how often you stop to enjoy the scenery, while the plunge takes 1-2 hours.