Nyungwe Forest National Park

The Nyungwe forest National Park is located in southwestern Rwanda, bordering with Burundi, to the south, and Lake Kivu and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. This rainforest is probably the best preserved montane rainforest in Rwanda and Central Africa. Nyungwe is between the basin of the river Congo water sheds to the west and the basin of the river Nile to the east. From the east side of the Nyungwe forest comes also one of the branches of the Nile sources. Nyungwe Forest covers an area of 970 km2 of rainforest, bamboo, grassland, swamps, and bogs. The nearest town is Cyangugu, 54 km to the west. Mount Bigugu is located within the park borders.

With 13 primate species, 275 bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species, Nyungwe is worth a visit. Many of these animals are restricted-range species that are only found in the Albertine Rift montane forests ecoregion in Africa. The forest, has its highest altitude of 3000 meters above sea level, is of particular interest for the presence of colonies of chimpanzees and Angola colobus, the latter now extinct in Angola for the intense hunt to which they were subjected.

The common chimpanzee in Nyungwe are the robust chimpanzee closely related bonobo, formerly called the pygmy chimpanzee. Evidence from fossils and DNA sequencing shows both species of chimpanzees are the sister group to the modern human lineage. They are covered in coarse black hair, but has a bare face, fingers, toes, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet. It is considered more robust than the bonobo, weighing between 40 and 65 kg and measuring about 63 to 94 cm. Its gestation period is eight months, reaching puberty at the age of eight to 10 years, and its lifespan in captivity is about 50 years.

The common chimpanzee lives in groups of between 15 to 150 members, although individuals travel and forage in much smaller groups during the day. Nearly all chimpanzee populations have been recorded using tools, modifying sticks, rocks, grass, and leaves and using them for acquiring honey, termites, ants, nuts, and water.

L’Hoest’s monkey is another common specie of monkey that live in the Nyungwe Forest, closely related to the Hamlyn’s monkey in size and distribution. L’Hoest’s monkey is more closely related to the vervet monkeys of the genus Chlorocebus and the Patas monkey than to the other guenons of the genus Cercopithecus. L’Hoest’s has a short, dark brown coat, with a chestnut color across the back and a dark belly, with body length of 12.5 to 27 inches. The male weighs about 6 kilograms, while the smaller female weighs 3.5 kilograms.

Unlike the chimps, L’Hoest’s lives in fairly small groups dominated by females and have only a single male. The females are usually related, while the male stays only a couple of weeks or at most a couple of years. These primates are active during the day, mostly during early morning and late afternoon. They sleep in trees in a sitting position, usually either holding branches or each other.
L’Hoest’s monkey breed seasonally, with the timing depending on the area and this happens about a five month gestation period usually at the end of the dry season, which allows lactation when rainfall is highest. Male offspring reach sexual maturity they will leave the group. In captivity they have been known to live for more than 30 years.