Kahuzi-Biega National Park is located in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), bordering the most densely populated region of this vast central African nation. In 1995 wildlife surveys by WCS showed that the park is home to 86% of all Grauer’s gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) which are endemic to this region. Kahuzi-Biega is also a stronghold for other endangered species including forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis), eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) and many others only found in the Albertine Rift. First established in 1970, the park was recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980 and categorized as “in danger” in 1994, following the genocide in Rwanda and the settlement of many refugees close by.
With the onset of civil war in DRC in 1996, the Congolese wildlife authority (the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, ICCN), which is responsible for the management of the country’s protected areas, lost control of the park as armed militias moved in. This greatly increased poaching of elephants for their ivory and illegal hunting of wildlife including gorillas for food and trade.
Every 5 years, or when security allows, WCS conducts surveys with the ICCN in the Tshivanga highlands of the park to monitor changes in gorilla numbers and to assess the effectiveness of our conservation efforts in this sector of the park.