Shrouded in mist and hanging moss, the mountain forests of the Virunga volcanoes are home to the magnificent mountain gorillas. The chain of eight volcanoes runs along the western branch of the Great Rift Valley, forming part of the border between Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda. These spectacular mountains and the nearby Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda are the last refuge of the mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei), the world's most endangered primate. Only about 620 of these fabled creatures remain.
In 1979, AWF member Frank Rus, of Naperville, Ill., decided to make a trip that travel agents described as impossible, traveling the Congo River 1,100 miles from Kinshasa to the end of navigation, Kisingani. Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) was broken down (in the words of one government official), accommodations were scarce, transportation was unreliable and taking 16mm camera equipment to film mountain gorillas into a country suspicious of all unfamiliar activities would be extremely difficult. Nevertheless, Frank went.
Conservationists and park officials have managed to protect the Virunga population of highly endangered mountain gorillas despite protracted conflict in and around their habitat, the mountains where Congo-Kinshasa meets Rwanda and Uganda. The population of this group, one of two groups left in the world, has increased by at least 11 percent since the last full count in 1989.
The African Wildlife Foundation is exceedingly proud to launch our redesigned website, offering new and exciting features to give our members and supporters direct access to our fieldwork.
AWF is establishing a Heartlands Science Unit to support its African Heartlands conservation program.
The science unit will combine expertise currently available in Africa and in Washington, D.C., to articulate the scientific principles upon which the Heartlands model is based and to ensure that Heartlands remains a strong, scientifically grounded program.