Kahuzi-Biega National Park (World Heritage)

One of the last groups of Eastern lowland gorillas (gray gorillas) lives in the tropical rainforest between two extinct volcanoes, the Kahuzi and the Biega. Due to the political situation and the mining of coltan, the national park, but above all the gorilla population, is endangered. The park has been on the red list since 1997.

Kahuzi-Biega National Park: Facts

Official title: Kahuzi-Biega National Park
Natural monument: 6000 km²; 1800 mm precipitation as an annual mean, air humidity 50% to 85%; threatened by the consequences of the civil war in neighboring Rwanda; 1997 put on the »red list« of the endangered world heritage
Continent: Africa
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kivu Region; See itypeusa
Location: west of Bukavu, northeast of the Congo
Appointment: 1980
Meaning: tropical primary forest with two extinct volcanoes, Kahuzi (3308 m) and Biega (2790 m), sanctuary for gorillas
Flora and fauna: Mountain and bog rainforests with stone slices as well as heather and carnation plants; Eastern lowland gorillas that have become rare, around 200 to 300 animals living at an altitude of 2100 to 2400 m; other monkeys such as Northern Guereza and Red Colobus; several thousand African elephants, numerous antelopes and duikers, giant forest pigs, Alexander bush squirrels, crawling cats such as the giant gorse, Maclaud horseshoe bat, a bat species, and an insect eater, the Ruwenzori otter shrew

Hairy relatives in the dark Congo forest

Special features such as an unusual landscape or vegetation, a unique variety of animal species or by being the last refuge for rare or threatened species. In the Kahuzi-Biega National Park, the last gorillas were the reason to put this area under protection. Above all, it is important to preserve their habitat, the mountain forest. The forest – as an area that has been largely spared from human influences – is itself worthy of protection and contains a number of animals. There are still quite a large number of chimpanzees and forest elephants here. These elephants are smaller than their cousins ​​in the savannah, have rounder ears, straight, not so strongly curved tusks and live in smaller groups. The buffalo are also smaller, more reddish in color and have horns, which are smaller than those of the Cape buffalo living in the savannah. The undergrowth of the forest, on the other hand, is home to dainty forest duikers. For mountaineers there are exciting tours to Mount Biega, Mount Bugulumiza and Kahuzi to the north. As everywhere in Africa’s mountains, you come from the lower mountain forest zone into the particularly dense bamboo forests and then into the Afro-Alpine zone with tree heather, giant cross herbs and tree lobelia. In the mountainous east of the park, near the entrance in Tshivanga, you can pay a visit to the gorillas under the guidance of knowledgeable game rangers: some gorilla families in the mountain forest zone are not disturbed by the presence of humans, provided they observe all the necessary rules.

Inevitably, when observing gorillas, not only does the evolutionary theory emerge, which was founded by the great British biologist Charles Darwin, but with it also its widespread misinterpretation: Even today, the question of whether we are really talking about apes still haunts people’s minds descend. Darwin never said that. Here in Kahuzi-Biega, even the greatest skeptics realize that there are of course family ties between us and the gorillas. Yet they are by no means our direct ancestors; it is rather correct that we have common ancestors. At the time of the Incarnation, today’s great apes did not even exist; their ancestors were still alive at that time. The kinship lines for the great apes chimpanzee and gorilla on the one hand and the human on the other part separated around eight million years ago. The orangutan as the third great ape had broken away from the common family tree earlier. Since the apes and humans separated, we have developed upright gait, nudity and, above all, the brain, language and culture.

When young gorillas tumble over each other in play, chase each other and screeching screeching around each other, it has an incredibly human effect on us. A gorilla mother tenderly embraces her unhappy child to comfort him or punishes him with a vigorous slap if he is naughty. Silverback father stands up to his full, imposing height and pounds on his chest with a loud bang: he wants to intimidate someone or simply prove to himself what a great guy he is. However, when we find all of this so human, our thoughts go in the wrong direction. Because it is not the gorillas who behave in a human-like manner, but rather we humans simply behave like our animal ancestors, who offer us a very clear model here in the Kahuzi-Biega. Play, maternal care, male imposing and behaviors that seem so familiar to us humans take place in the pre-cultural area. What seems so moral to us in the families of the gorillas is – as Konrad Lorenz put it – ultimately »morally analogous«. Most of our behaviors have their roots in the instinctive behavior patterns of our ancestors and are nothing more than adaptations to the environment with a single goal: to survive.

Kahuzi-Biega National Park (World Heritage)

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