Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park (RMNP)
Flora and Fauna
Bigo Bog after John Matte Hut
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park (RMNP) and UWA
Most of the Mountain Range is today within
the borders of two National Parks. In Uganda, the “Rwenzori
Mountain National Park” and in the DRC, the “Virunga
National Park”. The larger part of the mountains (4/5)
is on the Ugandan side of the border. The smaller DRC side
of the mountains have been protected as a National Park since
1929. On the Ugandan side the Rwenzori Mountains have been
protected since 1941 above 2200 m. as a Forest Reserve. In
1991 the Rwenzori Mountains were gazetted as a National Park
named Rwenzori Mountains National Park (RMNP).
The extension is 996kms and it runs for almost 120km along
the Congo border west of Kasese and Fort Portal.
The Rwenzori National park has a special importance because
of its existence in 2 countries. These kinds of cross-boundary
parks are also called peace parks. One aim is in future to
give tourists the opportunity to climb the mountains from
one country and finish in the other.
The Rwenzori Mountains National Park is preserved and protected
by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Ugandan
government agency for the conservation and development of
the national parks. The headquarter of the park is located
at the foothills of the mountains, close to Ibanda.
The Rwenzori Mountains lie just north of
the Equator along the border between the Democratic Republic
of Congo (DRC) and Uganda. The north- south extension amounts
to about 120km and the east-west extension runs to about 50km.
The range has 6 major peaks, Mt Stanley (5,109m), Mt Speke
(4,890m) Mt Baker (4,843m), Mt Emin (4,798m), Mt Gessi (4,715m)
and Mt Luigi di Savoia (4,627m).
The highest peak in the Mt Stanley complex
(Margherita - 5,109) makes the Rwenzori Mountains the 3rd
highest range in Africa. But unlike the two highest mountains
in Africa (Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya), the Rwenzori
Mountains are not volcanic but predominantly old quartzite
and gneiss, pushed up by tremendous forces originating deep
within the earth’s crust in the region of 3 –
4 billion years ago.
The Rwenzori rise gradually from the Albertine Graben of Uganda
and fall steeply on the west to the rift valley of Semliki
River in DRC, which flows into Lake Albert and is therefore
one very important source of the Nile. At the southern end
of the mountains lies Lake Edward, which is connected to Lake
George. Both lakes are very important for the local communities
around the lakes, which earn their livelihood by fishing and
cattle grazing. Further, the water coming from the Rwenzori
Mountains is used to generate hydropower and for irrigation
schemes and domestic water supply to over 500,000 surrounding
people. The Rwenzori Mountains are therefore very important
for the economy in the surrounding area and all the way along
the river Nile.
Flora and Fauna
There are 5 different Vegetation Zones found
in the Rwenzori Mountains. These are grassland (1000-2000m),
montane forest (2000-3000m), bamboo/mimulopsis zone (2500-3500m),
Heather/Rapanea zone (3000-4000m) and the afro-alpine moorland
zone (4000-4500m). At higher altitudes some plants reach an
unusually large size, such as lobelia and groundsels. The
vegetation in the Rwenzori Mountains is unique to equatorial
alpine Africa and the only other places where they might be
also found are at Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya.
There are not so many larger animals found in the mountains,
due to heavy hunting during the 1970s –1980s. In the
forest zone are still elephants and buffalos – but they
are rarely seen. Animals that are more often seen are chimpanzees,
blue monkeys, Rwenzori colobus monkey, duiker, forest hog,
hyrax and leopard. The leopard is seen as high as 4000m.
The Rwenzori are one of the most important bird areas in Uganda.
Even though there are only 195 species recorded in the park,
among them are many rare, threatened and endemic species.
The probably most noticeable bird is the Rwenzori Turaco.
But also the Francolins, Olive Pigeon, White Necked Raven
and Mountain Buzzards are seen in the Range.