The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) is in southwestern Uganda. The park is part of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and is situated along the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border next to the Virunga National Park and on the edge of the Albertine Rift. Composed of 321 square kilometres (124 sq mi) of both montane and lowland forest, it is accessible only on foot. BINP is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization-designated World Heritage Site.
Geography and climate
Mountains of Bwindi
Kabale town to the south-east is the nearest main town to the park, 29 kilometres (18 mi) away by road. The park is composed of two blocks of forest that are connected by a corridor of forest. The shape of the park is a legacy of previous conservation management, when the original two forest blocks were protected in 1932. There is agricultural land where there were previously trees directly outside the park’s borders. Cultivation in this area is intense.
The park’s underlying geology consists of Precambrian shale phyllite, quartz, quartzite, schist, and granite. The park is at the edge of the Western Rift Valley in the highest parts of the Kigezi Highlands, which were created by up-warping of the Western Rift Valley. Its topography is very rugged, with narrow valleys intersected by rivers and steep hills. Elevations in the park range from 1,190 to 2,607 metres (3,904 to 8,553 ft) above sea level, and 60 percent of the park has an elevation of over 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). The highest elevation is Rwamunyonyi Hill at the eastern edge of the park. The lowest part of the park is at its most northern tip.
The forest is an important water catchment area. With a generally impermeable underlying geology where water mostly flows through large fault structures, water infiltration and aquifers are limited. Much of the park’s rainfall forms streams, and the forest has a dense network of streams. The forest is the source of many rivers that flow to the north, west, and south. Major rivers that rise in the park include the Ivi, Munyaga, Ihihizo, Ishasha, and Ntengyere rivers, which flow into Lake Edward. Other rivers flow into Lakes Mutanda and Bunyonyi. Bwindi supplies water to local agricultural areas.
Bwindi has a tropical climate. Annual mean temperature ranges from a minimum of 7 to 15 °C (45 to 59 °F) to a maximum of 20 to 27 °C (68 to 81 °F). Its annual rainfall ranges from 1,400 to 1,900 millimetres .The park’s forest plays an important role in regulating the surrounding area’s environment and climate. 233 High amounts of evapotranspiration from the forest’s vegetation increases the precipitation that the region outside the park receives. They also lessen soil erosion, which is a serious problem in south-western Uganda. They lessen flooding and ensure that streams continue to flow in the dry season
The park is inhabited by about 459 individual mountain gorillas as per the last 2019 Gorilla Census (Gorilla Fund)(Gorilla beringei beringei) known as the Bwindi population, which makes up almost half of all the mountain gorillas in the world. The rest of the worldwide mountain gorilla population lives in the nearby Virunga Mountains. A 2006 census of the mountain gorilla population in the park showed that its numbers had increased modestly from an estimated 300 individuals in 1997, to 320 individuals in 2002 to 340 individuals in 2006, and 400 in 2018. Poaching, disease and habitat loss are the greatest threat to the gorillas.
Research on the Bwindi population lags behind that of the Virunga National Park population, but some preliminary research on the Bwindi gorilla population has been carried out by Craig Stanford. This research has shown that the Bwindi gorilla’s diet is markedly higher in fruit than that of the Virunga population, and that the Bwindi gorillas, even silverbacks, are more likely to climb trees to feed on foliage, fruits, and epiphytes. In some months, the Bwindi gorilla diet is very similar to that of Bwindi chimpanzees. It was also found that Bwindi gorillas travel farther per day than Virunga gorillas, particularly on days when feeding primarily on fruit than when they are feeding on fibrous foods. Additionally, Bwindi gorillas are much more likely to build their nests in trees, nearly always in Alchornea floribunda (locally, “Echizogwa”), a small understory tree.
The mountain gorilla is an endangered species, with an estimated total population of about 650 individuals. There are no mountain gorillas in captivity, but during the 1960s and 1970s, some were captured to start captive breeding.
The park is owned by the Uganda Wildlife Authority, a parastatal government body. The park has total protection, although communities adjacent to the park can access some of its resources.
The areas bordering the park have a high population density of more than 300 people per square kilometer. Some of the people who live in these areas are among the poorest people in Uganda. The high population and poor agricultural practises place a great pressure on the Bwindi forest, and are one of the biggest threats to the park. Ninety percent of the people are dependent on subsistence agriculture, as agriculture is one of the area’s few ways of earning income.
Prior to Bwindi’s gazetting as a national park in 1991, the park was designated as a forest reserve, and regulations about the right to access the forest were more liberal and seldom enforced. Local people hunted, mined, logged, pit sawed, and kept bees in the park. It was gazetted as a national park in 1991 because of its rich biodiversity and threats to the integrity of the forest. Its designation as a national park gave the park higher protection status. State agencies increased protection and control of the park. Adjacent communities’ access to the forest immediately ended. This closing of access caused large amounts of resentment and conflict among these local communities and park authorities. The Batwa, a group that had relied on the forest, were badly affected. The Batwa fished, harvested wild yams and honey, and had ancestral sites within the park. Despite the Batwa people’s historical claim to land rights and having lived in the area for generations without destroying the area’s ecosystem, they did not benefit from any national compensation scheme when they were evicted. Non-Batwa farmers who had cut down the forested areas in order to cultivate them, received compensation and their land rights were recognized. People have lost livestock and crops from wildlife, and there have been some human deaths. The habituation of gorillas to humans in order to facilitate tourism may have increased the damage they do to local people’s property because their fear of people has decreased.
Tourists may visit the park any time during the year, although conditions in the park are more difficult during the rainy season. The park is in a remote location, and the roads are in poor condition. Tourist accommodations include a lodge, tented camps, and rooms run by the community located near the Buhoma entrance gate.
Bwindi Community Hospital provides health care to 40,000 people in the area and to visiting tourists.
Gorilla tracking is the park’s main tourist attraction, and it generates much revenue for Uganda Wildlife Authority. Tourists wishing to track gorillas must first obtain a permit. Selected gorillas families have been habituated to human presence, and the number of visitors is tightly controlled to prevent risks to the gorillas and degradation of the habitat. Several tour companies are able to reserve gorilla tracking permits for prospective visitors to Bwindi. The gorillas seldom react to tourists. There are strict rules for tourists to minimize the risk of disease transmission to the gorillas. Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the only countries where it is possible to visit mountain gorillas. Guided walks through the forest include a walk to a waterfall, and walks for monkey watching and birding.
What is Bwindi Impenetrable famous for?
Located in south-western Uganda, at the junction of the plain and mountain forests, Bwindi Park covers 32,000 ha and is known for its exceptional biodiversity, with more than 160 species of trees and over 100 species of ferns.
Why do tourists visit Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
Explore and discover this UNESCO World Heritage site. Visiting Bwindi Forest means Gorilla Trekking, but also Hiking in and through the Forest, Birding, Cultural Visits with the Batwa People, Mountain Biking, Village Visits. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a place of Discovery in the Pearl of Africa.
How many gorillas are in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
The park is inhabited by about 459 individual mountain gorillas as per the last 2019 Gorilla Census (Gorilla Fund)(Gorilla beringei beringei), known as the Bwindi population, which makes up almost half of all the mountain gorillas in the world.