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Tourist Attractions/What to See in Kahuzi-Biega National Park

With its 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.

Facts About Kahuzi-Biega National Park

  • 136 Species
  • 336 Bird Species
  • 69 Reptile Species
  • 44  Species

Eastern Lowland Gorillas at Kahuzi Biega National Park

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

Mpungwe Family: Is the young father, about 30 years’ old named after a river which flows through his favourite territory, and waters the urera and myrianthus plants and trees which are the source of his favourite food. The Family is younger than Chimanuka’s and has very “smooth” rostral area. His lines are not very defined perhaps slightly larger than Chimanuka. Several females currently living in Mpungwe’s group were previously with Chimanuka, meaning he must have some charms. He has a tendency to charge at people and make a lot of noise (newly habituated) impressive but not dangerous. All the gorillas have distinctive lines on their nasal area which helps to distinguish them, as well as torn ears, bumps on their face, or old scars.

Chimanuka Family: Chimanuka and a young Grauer’s gorilla in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has been working with staff of Kahuzi-Biega National Park to study the only habituated group of Grauer’s gorillas, whose population in general has been facing severe decline. This group is led by a silverback named “Chimanuka,” who is quite an interesting leader.

At an estimated 30 years old, Chimanuka has a special history. Half of the gorillas in the area where Chimanuka lives were killed during the most violent part of the conflict in eastern Congo (1996-2003). Chimanuka is one of the few silverbacks who survived. He was then a solitary male but formed his own group in 2002 and rapidly acquired adult females from a neighboring group, where the silverback was not as strong. Chimanuka has since had a number of offspring, and he now leads a group of 23 individuals, with four adult females and 18 younger members.

It is very unusual that he has twice sired a set of twins, and two of the twins are currently being monitored and doing well. He also has a special personality. Chimanuka is the most peaceful gorilla and he is extremely tolerant toward humans. He’s also known for his immense size, which was actually measured this year (using measurements based on photographs) and compares in size to mountain gorilla silverbacks Isabukuru and Musilikale, the largest silverbacks we monitor in Rwanda. Yet, like Isabukuru, he also exhibits great patience with the younger gorillas in his group.

Mugaruka Family: Mugaruka acted as the group leader, although he was not yet fully mature. In 2000 at age of 13 he became a fully developed silverback, and for the next few years defended his group successfully against several other aggressive males. On June 8th, 2000 he had a son, named Chubaka, and then several months later another called Maendeleo. With a large group of females and two offspring, Mugaruka’s scarred childhood was healing into a healthy adult life. In September 2002, however he had an encounter with Chimanuka.

Chimanuka was born in 1986 to the silverback Maheshe, who occupied the same area of the park as Mushamuka. Maheshe was one of the most well-known gorillas in the park, was visited by many tourists and film crews, and in 1991 he appeared on the 50,000 Zaire note. In 1993, however, he was killed by poachers who took his head and attempted to sell it for 200 US$. Maheshe had not tolerated any sub-adult males in his group while he was alive, and after his death the lack of a potential leader caused the group to gradually dislocate and fall apart.

Chimanuka ended up living on his own as a blackback until he matured into a silverback and began searching for females with which to form his own group. In September 2002 he found Mugaruka, fought with him, and won, thus taking charge of a group of 14 individuals including many fertile females.

Marhale Family: Also known as the Orphan Born in 2011, and according to park sources Mother Makali (means fiery-tempered) was killed during an interaction between Chimanuka and Mugaruka. Marhale was orphaned when very young, a little over one and a half years old, and still highly dependent on his mother.

He started following Chimanuka around as if he was his mother. His hair is somehow brown (due to lack of nutritional milk from when he was orphaned, as well as stress), eyes are close together, he’s somewhat stunted in growth and his limbs are short. The Chimanuka family is very patient with Marhale, and protects him as his mother would. Chimanuka took to grooming Marhale, occasionally so did Mwinja and no one thought he would make it, but he’s a survivor. Rarely plays with other gorillas enjoys grooming from his father.

Mwinja Family: Commonly known as the Mum, probably late 20s has a distinctive orange-tinged fore brow. Its Name means “favorite wife” and she has at least 2 children in the family, possibly 3 youngest. Mwira, little over 1-year now is very calm. Female Good mother, keeps a close eye on her baby and sometimes seen grooming Marhale, the orphan.

Mwira Family: Also known as the Baby and youngest infant in family, just over 1-year-old outgoing and playful. Regularly solicits play from his siblings, especially Mulenge, Karibu, and Pori (closest in age to Mwira, all still with mothers). Still not quite eating adult food items and highly dependent on mother Mwinja for moving around (carried on back or belly). Owing to his age, he gets a lot of attention from other members of group.

Other Attractions

The Kahuzi-Biega National Park has other attractions besides the gorillas. Visitors can go to the Lwiro Falls or walk to Mt. Bugulumiza for a panoramic view of the area. Hiking on Mt. Kahuzi and Mt. Biega not permitted by the Park Authority at this time.

The park harbors 13 species of primates which the dwarf galago, Angolan black and white colobus, northern black colobus, western red colobus, chimpanzees and the eastern lowland gorillas which are officially open for gorilla trekking adventure once booked with trusted tour operator.

The park has got its two inactive volcanoes that are a major attraction from it extracts its name that is Mount Kahuzi which is the highest peak about 3,308m and Mount Beiga which is 2,790m and the second highest peak in the park as these attract visitors with their splendid views giving them ultimate memories and experience.

Want to visit Kahuzi-Biega?

Kahuzi-Biega National Park, is a secure area close to Bukavu town in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.