Volcanoes National Park is home to a couple of hundred mountain gorillas. There are only around 900 remaining in the world and about 200 of them reside here, deep within the Virunga Mountains, a range that runs through the intersection of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The only other place where mountain gorillas exist is in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed them as critically endangered.
War and political instability in the three countries that share the Virunga Mountains have had a negative impact on the gorillas for some time. They also face increasing loss of habitat due to local communities encroaching into parkland to expand their farmland and villages. This is evident during the first half of our walk to Volcanoes National Park, which follows a steep path that passes through crops and local homes with children running out screaming an emphatic ‘hello!’ It takes a full hour to reach a stone wall that separates the park from the village – a wall that is fundamental in preventing the local community from extending further into the park.