Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda, is probably the best preserved rainforest in the mountains throughout Central Africa. The Nyungwe National park contains 13 primate species (25% of Africa's total), 275 bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species. Many of these animals are restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion in Africa.
Nyungwe rainforest is in southwestern Rwanda bordering Burundi along the south with Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. It is in the watershed between the basin of the river Congo to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east. From the east side of the Nyungwe forest is one of the sources of the Nile. Nyungwe National Park was established in 2004 and covers an area of approximately 970 km² of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, and bogs. The nearest town is Cyangugu, 54 km to the west. Mount Bigugu is within the park boundaries
History of Nyungwe National Park
Important to Rwanda and the world for its biodiversity, beauty, and natural resources, today Nyungwe is a protected area. Nyungwe forest is hundreds of thousands of years old. People’s presence in Nyungwe dates back at least 50,000 years. In 1903, Nyungwe was declared a forest reserve by the German colonial government with restrictions on clearing. This status was maintained by the Begins after World War I. Protection was not consistently enforced.
From 1958-1973, Nyungwe was reduced by over 150 km² due to fires, woodcutting, hunting of animals, and small-scale agriculture. Nearby Gishwati and Virunga forests were cut in half at this time. In 1969, elephants still numbered in the hundreds in Nyungwe. In 1974, the last buffalo was killed in Nyungwe by hunters. In 1984, Nyungwe was divided into areas that allow for sustainable use and harvesting of timber. The Government of Rwanda develops a plan for a buffer zone that can still be seen today. In 1984, biodiversity surveys conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) with RDB documented colobus in groups of up to 400 members—an unheard of phenomenon. In 1987, development of the trail system began at Uwinka.
In 1994, war and genocide devastated the country and destroyed many of the research and tourist facilities in Uwinka. Most senior staff were forced to flee, but many junior staff members at Nyungwe stayed on to protect the park. The park began to rebuild in 1995, but security and stability were still uncertain. In 1999, the last elephant in Nyungwe was killed in the swamp by poachers.
In 2005, the Rwandan Government makes Nyungwe an official National Park, giving it protected status, the highest level of protection in the country.
The main entrance is at Uwinka on the main Cyangugu - Huye road. It's about 55 km from Cyangugu and 90 km from Huye. The road is mostly in good condition. There are regular buses along the route and hitching is also an option. Buses are often full when the reach here so if you're getting a bus out it may be best to try and book your ticket in advance.
If travelling from Cyangugu ignore the sign in town that says it's 20 km and further ignore the sign 15 km from Cyangugu directing you right up a dirt track. These refer to a small off shoot of the park, not the park proper.
Nyungwe forest has a wide diversity of animal species, making it a priority for conservation in Africa. The forest is situated in a region where several large-scale biogeographical zones meet and the variety of terrestrial biomes provide a great span of microhabitats for many different species of plants and animals.
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