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Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park (RMNP) and UWA
Landscape

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.

Landscape

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.

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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.

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