Itombwe Nature Reserve

Itombwe Nature Reserve, a Protected Area in the Itombwe Mountains of Congo

The Itombwe Nature Reserve is a protected area found in the Itombwe Mountains located in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The reserve that occupies 6,009.10 square kilometers or 2,320.13 square miles is a portion of a Lion Conservation Unit. The reserve is habitat to the critically endangered eastern lowland gorilla (Gorilla beringei graueri). In you are looking for places where to find gorillas in Africa, search for Itombwe Nature Reserve as an option.

The government of Congo acknowledged the reserve in 2006, but its boundaries and the uses permitted inside the park were not well-defined in the declaration. After some discussions with local people, the borders and use zones within the park were formally clarified in June 2016. The park is distributed into three zones including a conservation zone for wildlife with no human use; a multiple-use zone which permits limited human use and sustainable resource extraction and a development zone which includes villages where sustainable development projects are promoted.

As per different biological excursions into the massif, the place remains significant for biodiversity given the number of prevalent species (endemism) and for the number of species in general (species richness), mainly as a result of some recent re-discoveries of certain amphibian species.

Though, in spite of its biological abundance and habitat multiplicity, the biodiversity of the massif is endangered by several human activities. These activities include hunting using old-fashioned means or firearms, small-scale and industrial mining, setting of bush fires to enable domestic animal grazing, human settlements and the feeble governance of natural resources.
In a move to find solutions for the conservation challenges in the massif, conservation partners have put into place a unified involvement plan covering a range of activities from consultations with the local inhabitants to activities in order conserve the Itombwe Nature Reserve’s biodiversity.

Location of the Reserve

The Itombwe Nature Reserve is located in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Kivu Province and west of Lake Tanganyika. It reserve extends between 2° 51.286′ and 4° 0.690′ south and between 28° 09.889′ and 28° 58.511′ east. The Itombwe Mountains are fragment of the Mitumba Range in the east of the country in the Albertine Rift. The Mitumba Range share margins with the western branch of the Great Rift Valley, with quite a lot of large lakes occupying the valley floor.

The Mitumba range is a portion of the Itombwe Massif and is covered by a massive mountain forest. In fact, it is a segment of a mountain range that extends along the whole eastern border of Congo stretching from Katanga to North Kivu. The Itombwe Massif boasts of the largest high-altitude jungle in the whole of Africa. Out of the massif’s 15,000 km², around 7,500 km² are occupied by forest. Almost all of this (about 6,700 km²) is high-altitude forest featuring transition and bamboo forest. Itombwe’s vegetation is very wide-ranging, ranging from low height above sea level to the highest peaks.

The current reserve frontiers give the reserve a surface area of 5,732 km², with a perimeter of 568 kilometers. It extends into the territories of Mwenga, Uvira and Shabunda. At present, the reserve is managed by the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN). Conservation activities here are supported by Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Africapacity/Rainforest Foundation Norway.