Gray countries with texture denote areas of future engagement.


Widespread poverty is causing deforestation and poaching

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  • Quick Facts:


    2,633,759 hectares (10,169 sq. mi.)

  • Key Landmarks

    1. Lake Kivu
    2. Volcanoes National Park
    3. Nyungwe National Park
  • Animals Inhabiting Land

    Mountain gorilla, chimpanzee, colobus monkey, giraffe, elephant

  • Primary Ecosystems

    Savanna, tropical and subtropical forest

  • Population


    Tags: Rwanda, East Africa, Virunga, Giraffe, Elephant, Mountain Gorilla, Chimpanzee

  • Mountain gorilla in Virunga National Park, Rwanda
  • Mountain Gorilla IGCP
  • Mountain Gorilla Craig R Sholley
  • Mountain Gorilla Craig R. Sholley
  • Mountain gorilla Craig R. Sholley
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Governors Camp Collection
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge AWF
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Governors Camp Collection
  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Craig R. Sholley

The “Land of a Thousand Hills” has a third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.

Known as the “Land of a Thousand Hills,” Rwanda rests just below the equator and its size, while small—about the size of Maryland—has a rich geography with mountains, savannas, and many lakes. This landlocked nation is at a high altitude. It also has one of the 20 deepest lakes in the world, Lake Kivu.

In some ways, Rwanda is still recovering from its tribal conflicts and 1994 genocide. With few natural resources, the economy is based on subsistence agriculture, where farmers grow just enough food to feed their families. Coffee and tea are cash crops and one of the country’s biggest exports thanks to the high altitudes, steep slopes, and volcanic soils.

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors because Rwanda is fortunate to be one of only two countries where tourists can visit the endangered mountain gorillas safely. There are seven mountain gorilla families that tourists can visit, including Susa, the largest group with 41 mountain gorillas that also have rare 5-year-old twins. Besides gorillas, Rwanda has more than 700 kinds of birds.


There are three national parks and most of the large mammals are found here, including the Ruwenzori colobus arboreal monkeys. They have the biggest troop size of any primate in Africa and can move in groups of up to 400.



The human population is growing at an alarming rate, while wildlife is shrinking.

Rwanda is still continuing to rebuild long after a decade of war. Besides fixing its infrastructure, it must also deal with one of the most densely populated countries in all of Africa. With more than 11 million people—and growing—it faces challenges of having a population where more than 40% are estimated to be under the age of 15.

Most people live in rural areas in poverty. This generates pressure to take away protected areas and convert it into farmland. It also causes deforestation, as people exploit forest products like bamboo or firewood for fuel.

Rampant poaching of small mammals is a new challenge. Previously, poachers targeted large mammals. But, due to the extinction of buffalo and the elephants in Nyungwe National Park, they have moved on to giant rats and squirrels. People have also destroyed hills and trees after setting fires that spread while they attempted to smoke bees from wild hives.



Will you show Rwanda your support?

With your help, African Wildlife Foundation can continue vital efforts in Rwanda such as ranger training to help protect the endangered mountain gorillas, eco-lodges, and more. Donate for a cause that will help the people of Rwanda, their land, and wildlife conservation.



  • Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Craig R. Sholley
    Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
    International tourism put to work for mountain gorillas

    Mountain gorillas are in danger of extinction.

    In the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, tourists pay top dollar for the privilege of tracking mountain gorillas. Mountain...

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  • Mountain Gorilla Rangers Mohammed Hashim
    Mountain Gorilla Rangers
    Gorillas face peril

    Fewer than 900 mountain gorillas exist today.

    Mountain gorillas remain exceedingly endangered and live in only one area—the Virunga Heartland. This landscape spans the...

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    All Projects

  • Student Anna Behm_Masozera IGCP
    Student Gorilla Trek
    Facilitating conservation education through interaction with wildlife

    Wildlife permits are too expensive for native Rwandans. 

    Despite living so close to the magnificent mountain gorilla, many Rwandans lack the ability to fully engage...

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    All Projects

  • Close up of chimp in a tree.
    African Apes Initiative
    Saving Africa’s great apes from the brink of extinction.

    All of Africa’s great ape species are either endangered or critically endangered.

    Africa is home to four of the world’s five great apes: the...

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    All Projects

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