History of Virunga National Park Congo

History of Virunga National Park Congo: Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo was established in 1925 as Albert National Park. It was the first national park established on the African continent, mostly to preserve mountain gorillas living in the Virunga Massif forests. A Congo Safaris tours is not complete minus a visit to Virunga national park and one of the major activities you can do during your visit to Congo is gorilla trekking in Virunga national park.

History of the Park.

Virunga National Park was once restricted to three volcanoes in the south, but it was eventually enlarged northward to encompass the Rwindi plains, Lake Edward, and the Rwenzori “Mountains of the Moon.”

In the early 1920s, some European conservationists, including Victor van Straelen, Jean Massart, and Jean-Marie Derscheid, advocated for the establishment of a protected area in north-eastern Belgian Congo. Albert National Park, Africa’s first national park, was founded in April 1925 as a science-oriented nature reserve with the goal of studying and protecting wildlife and so-called ‘primitive’ hunter-gatherer African Pygmies. Derscheid led the first Belgian trip to map Albert National Park in 1926, which covered 500 km2 and included the extinct volcanoes Mount Karisimbi and Mount Mikeno.

Virunga National Park in Congo, which covered the Virunga Mountains, sections of the Rutshuru Territory, and the lowlands south of Lake Edward, was added to the protected area in 1929. Its initial size of 2,920.98 km2 has gradually increased throughout the years. Indigenous people were expelled from the protected region after losing their traditional land rights as a result of this procedure. An estimated 85,000 Rwandophones were relocated to neighbouring Masisi in North Kivu between the late 1930s and 1955.

The Institut des Parcs Nationaux du Congo Belge was established in 1934 as the regulatory organization for Belgian Congo national parks. Several missions to Albert National Park were led by Belgian scientists between the early 1930s and 1961, the second of which was led by Gaston-François de Witte. They examined and gathered wildlife zoological specimens for the Musée Royal d’Histoire Naturelle de Belgique; investigated ethnic groups in the area; and studied volcanic activity and fossils.

Tutsi herders and their livestock invaded the park in the late 1950s, destroying natural habitat up to an altitude of 3,000 m, threatening the park’s gorillas.

Land regulations were altered in the 1960s after the Belgian Congo gained independence as the Republic of the Congo, and land was proclaimed state property, greatly to the detriment of local people. Illegal hunting has risen within protected areas.

The park was renamed Virunga National Park in 1969, following the country’s independence from Belgium in 1960. Virunga was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site ten years later, in 1979. Over the last two decades, Virunga has had several episodes of unrest, many of which began in or near the Park. Eastern Congo is one of the world’s poorest regions, and competition for the Park’s abundant natural riches has long been severe.

The Congolese National Parks Authority (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, ICCN) and the Virunga Foundation (formerly known as the Africa Conservation Foundation) partnered to administer the park in 2008. Virunga National Park is one of five UNESCO protected places under the ICCN’s administration.

This collaboration launched a comprehensive reform program and laid the groundwork for the Virunga Alliance, an innovative development initiative aimed at addressing the core causes of poverty and violence and reducing illicit and harmful resource exploitation in the region.

The Virunga Foundation is a UK-based charity launched in 2005 to promote the conservation of the Park’s flora and animals, as well as to provide benefits for the local populations that live in its vicinity. The Foundation has the Park’s management contract, which compels it to repair and maintain the national park in collaboration with the ICCN.

In 2011, the British business Soco International was given a concession to extract crude oil in the national park’s environs and in substantial portions of it. Soco International mission members’ exploratory operations were welcomed by government officials, while park administration was opposed. In April 2014, the park’s head warden, Emmanuel de Mérode, was assassinated amid rising tensions. Following worldwide complaints, the corporation halted its exploration activities and agreed to desist from launching similar operations near World Heritage sites in the future.

La Fondation Virunga Belgique was founded in 2015 to raise funds and its mission is to educate the public about Virunga National Park. By 2016, four hydroelectric dams had been built, providing electricity to small companies and benefiting over 200,000 rural residents thus History of Virunga National Park Congo.

History of Virunga National Park Congo
Gorilla Trekking Safaris

Attractions and Activities in Virunga National Park.

View Endangered Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat.

Only the Virunga Massif and Bwindi National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Rwanda are home to the world’s entire population of critically endangered mountain gorillas. Around one-third of these gorillas live in Virunga National Park, which is surrounded by deep forests on the lush slopes of the Virunga hills.

The global mountain gorilla population is presently believed to be approximately 1000 individuals. There are presently 10 habituated gorilla families and four single males in Virunga’s southern sector around Bukima, which means they are fearful of human presence. A gorilla trekking permit in Congo costs $400 during the peak season and $200 per person during the low season.

Mountain Gorilla Habituation

Researchers and rangers see the gorillas on a regular basis for two to three years until the gorillas feel comfortable having people around them. Habituation is an important component of gorilla conservation since it enables for extensive study on the species. This contributes to a better knowledge of mountain gorilla behavior while also allowing veterinary experts to respond if gorillas are hurt or exhibit indications of illness.


The flora of Virunga National Park has 2,077 plant species, including 264 tree species and 230 plants indigenous to the Albertine Rift.


Over 200 mammals live in the national park, including buffaloes, bush elephants, leopards, duikers, big forest pigs, gigantic pangolins, marsh mongooses, bush squirrels, hippos, warthogs, and antelopes, among others.


The park is recognized as a birder’s paradise since it is home to 708 different bird species, including the grey throated barbet, white headed wood hoopoe, thick bellied sea eater, blue headed sunbird, black headed waxbill, blue spotted wood dove, and weird weaver.

History of Virunga National Park Congo
Birding in Virunga National Park Congo


Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is mostly consists of tropical rainforest with a variety of flora types such as savannah woodland and grassland, alpine vegetation, and swamp. The park’s greenery serves as both food and habitat for the animals.

Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage

Senkwekwe is the only orphanage in the world that cares for gorillas. The orphanage, which established in 2010, is located near Mikeno Lodge at the park headquarters. The orphaned gorillas at Senkwekwe are treated by a medical gorilla doctor and given nourishment, among other things.

If you are interested in visiting Virunga National Park during your Congo Safaris Tours, email us on info@congosafaristours.com

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