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Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Eastern Lowland Gorilla Trekking in the Democratic Republic of Congo

The eastern lowland gorilla—also known as Grauer’s gorilla—is the largest of the four gorilla subspecies. It is distinguished from other gorillas by its stocky body, large hands, and short muzzle. Despite its size, eastern lowland gorillas subsist mainly on fruit and other herbaceous materials, just like other gorilla subspecies.

Years of civil unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have taken their toll on both the eastern lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla. The eastern lowland gorilla makes its home in lowland tropical rain forests in the eastern DRC. In the last 50 years, its range has decreased from 8,100 square miles—about the size of the state of Massachusetts— to about 4,600 square miles today. This subspecies may now occupy only 13% of its historical range. There were nearly 17,000 eastern lowland gorillas in the mid-1990s but scientists estimate that the population has declined by more than 50% since then. An accurate accounting of the animals has been impossible for many years because of violence in the region.

Throughout the unrest, the gorillas have been vulnerable to poaching, even in Kahuzi-Biega National Park, home to the largest population of protected eastern lowland gorillas. Rebels and poachers invaded the park and people set up illegal mines. But, with help from WWF and other organizations, park staff are re-establishing control over the land.

Kahuzi Biega National Park DRC

Kahuzi Biega National Park is a protected area near Bukavu town, situated in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo on the western bank of Lake Kivu and the Rwanda border. It is well known as a home for the surviving eastern lowland gorillas which is the biggest gorilla subspecies in the world. Currently, lowland gorillas are considered to be the most tourist attraction in the park. By appearance, the male Eastern lowland gorillas are marked by a jet-black coat that becomes silver at a mature stage similar to that of mountain gorillas. The eastern lowland gorillas have large hands, shorter but huge body and head hair.

Kahuzi Biega National Park started as a zoological reserve in 1937 on the slopes of Mount Kahuzi in order to provide protection to the eastern lowland gorillas by the Belgian colonial government. It was then established in 1970 by a Belgium photographer and conservationist called Adrien Deschryver. It was then declared a national park.

Best time to trek Eastern Lowland gorillas in DRC

Located along the straddles of the equator, the Republic of Congo is well-known for its tropical weather. Depending on your itinerary plan, there are often selected the best times to visit Congo and what to expect throughout the year. The best time to visit Congo is during the long dry season from May to September, with July markedly the driest month, followed by August and June. The temperature also drops ever so slightly during these months. There is a shorter dry period in January and February. The higher regions of Virunga and Nyiragongo Volcano will provide welcome relief from the stuffiness.


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