The Eastern Lowland Gorilla (gorilla beringei graueri) were the first sub-species of gorillas to be visited by tourists in the early 1970s. In the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, two gorilla groups had been adapted to social manifestation by the efforts of one of the Park’s co-founders, a Belgian man called Adrian Deschryver, and his dedicated team of Congolese staff. Those habituated gorillas were silverbacks called Casimir and Mushamuka.
The impact of gorilla tourism was a positive one for the communities around the park and generated good incomes. Tourists bought locally-made souvenirs, local food, stayed in hotels, paid to have their shoes repaired, etc.
Unfortunately, Casimir, one of the first habituated silverbacks, died in 1974. But by the 1980’s the Kahuzi-Biega National Park had four habituated gorilla groups.
The silverback leaders of these groups were Mushamuka, Maheshe, Ninja and Mubalala. Gorilla tracking became famous after the release of the film ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ in 1988. Tourists came from all over the world to visit both the Mountain Gorillas in the film and the Eastern Lowland Gorillas too.
Gorilla families in Kahuzi-Biega national park
Kahuzi Biega National Park has 9 Gorilla Families and they have habituated only 5 gorilla groups which are open for visitors, with one Silverback that is staying in the local community that broke away from the Chimanuka.
Kahuzi Biega National Park always remained open for tourism and never experienced the political instability which affected the North Kivu region of Congo (and particularly Virunga).
The park offers among the best experiences of gorilla trekking (the low-land gorillas only) and only the bad image of Congo as a whole contributed to discourage tourism to Kahuzi Biega National Park Congo.
However, we must encourage tourism in Kahuzi Biega because the park is safe and because tourism will always help the conservation of the low-land gorillas.
In 2013 there are a total of nine gorilla families in the park, of which two gorillas families are open for tourism, Chimanuka (with 37 members, 19 baby gorillas and 17 females with one silverback) and Mugaruka (one member only, Mugaruka).
Two other families are under habituation: Mankoto and Mpungwe families. In 2011 the total estimated number of low land gorillas was 140 individuals.
In 1992 the park was counting 25 gorilla families and a total of 284 gorillas, but later on the instability of the country at the end of the Ninetieth also affected the park; fortunately, the recent years of instability elsewhere in Congo are not affecting again Kahuzi Biega National Park.
Magnificent Mugaruka and Chimanuka are rare wild gorillas in DR Congo. Both are massive, powerful ‘silverbacks’. Gorillas are peaceful vegetarians living in close-knit families. Mugaruka lost a hand in a deadly wire snare. A born Free gorilla was adopted to help keep them safe from poachers.
Mugaruka and Chimanuka are eastern lowland (or Grauer’s) gorilla silverbacks, living in the high altitude sector of Kahuzi-Biega National Park. Despite the work of the dedicated park staff, the pressure on the park is intense, and since the civil unrest that began in the mid-1990s protecting these animals has been an uphill struggle.
Their slaughter for trophies or meat, or simply out of fear, has affected many of the gorilla families in the park and the wider area.
From the Tshivanga Station of the Park, visitors are accompanied by a guide and his team of trackers. You will move to the nearest entry point to the forest by vehicle.
The Eastern Lowland Gorillas in the Upland Sector of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park like to range from an elevation of 2,000m (the secondary forest) up to 2,600m (the bamboo forest).
The location of the gorillas depends on the foods available to them at different times of year in the different forests. From mid-October to the end of August, the tracking time can vary between 20 minutes and 2 hours.
From the end of August to the middle of October, it can take 3 hours or even longer to find the gorillas. Whatever the time of year, they can always be reached.
In the secondary forest where they range most of the year, the ground is bushy and you might only see just a few members of the group, even though other members will be nearby in the undergrowth.
But you might just get lucky and see most of the group members in a clearing. You just never know. To minimize human impact, we can watch the gorillas for one hour only
Kahuzi Biega National Park is always open for tourism and never experienced the political instability which exaggerated in the North Kivu region of Congo (and particularly Virunga). The park offers among the best experiences of gorilla trekking (the low-land gorillas only) and only the bad image of Congo as a whole subsidized to depress tourism to Kahuzi Biega.
However, we increase tourism in Kahuzi Biega because the park is inoffensive and will always help the conservation of the low-land gorillas.
Around 2013, there were nine gorilla families in the park, of which two gorilla families are open for tourism, Chimanuka that comprised of 37 members, 19 baby gorillas and 17 females together with 1 silverback and Mugaruka that has one gorilla named as Mugaruka. There are two other families that are under habituation that is to say Mpungwe and Mankato families.
The total projected number of low land gorillas was 140 members in 2001. In 1992 the park was calculating 25 gorilla families and a total of 284 gorillas, but later on the instability of the country at the end of the Ninetieth also affected the park, fortunately, the recent years of instability elsewhere in Congo are not affecting again Kahuzi Biega.
In addition to gorilla tracking in the Park, the park also offers a lot of other activities since it is a home to 135 other mammal species which include 12 species of primates (amongst them eastern chimpanzees, red colobus, Blue monkey, Red Tailed monkey, L’Hoest monkey, Owl-faced monkey, Angolan black and white colobus, baboons, grey-cheeked mangabey), forest elephants, leopards, civets, gennets, otters and many antelope and duikers.
Thirty of the 336 species birds found in the park are endemic to the Albertine Rift, such as the Rockefeller’s sunbird, Ruwenzori Turaco, Grauer’s broadbill, Grauer’s warbler and Shelley’s crimson wing. There are further 69 species of reptiles and 44 species of amphibians.