Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) is Uganda’s smallest but probably most scenic National Park, situated at the extreme south-western corner of the country. It encompasses the Ugandan side of the three Bufumbira volcanic mountains of Mgahinga (3,400 m), Muhavura (4,127 m), and Sabinyo (3,645 m) on the boundary with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The three mountains are part of the six extinct and two active volcanoes of the Virunga range, which extends into Rwanda and DRC. The park forms part of the large transboundary conservation area that straddles the political boundaries to include Volcans National Park in Rwanda and Virungas National Park in the DRC (IBAs RW002 and CD010 respectively).The vegetation of the park consists of: a bamboo Arundinaria-forest zone at 2,800–3,100 m; a misty Hypericum-woodland zone at 3,100–3,700 m; a tree-heather zone; a subalpine ericaceous belt; and the topmost alpine moorland vegetation (alpine zone). There are numerous north-flowing streams, two crater-lakes on Mount Mgahinga and Mount Muhavura, and high-altitude swamps and marshes. Forest covers a total of c.3,000 ha within the park.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. The park is relatively remote and has received little attention from ornithologists. The most recent checklist lists 115 species. Three of the globally threatened species, and others such as Nectarinia johnstoni, can be viewed in the open heath between the bamboo zone and the edges of the forest. Other scarce highland species include Musophaga johnstoni, Phylloscopus laetus, Chloropeta similis, Apalis personata, Nectarinia preussi and Cercomela sordida (known only from old records). Other notable species, such as Francolinus nobilis, Cossypha archeri, Batis diops and Parus fasciiventer, are found in only a few other places in Uganda.

Non-bird biodiversity: Threatened mammals include Gorilla gorilla beringei (CR), Cercopithecus mitis kandti (EN) and Loxodonta africana (EN).

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The National Park was gazetted as a Gorilla Sanctuary in 1930, the boundary of which followed approximately the 2,450 m contour and the Rwanda and DRC borders. In 1964, the northern boundary was changed to a lower altitude (2,280 m), extending into heavily encroached zones, and gazetted as a Game Reserve, which made its present area of c.47.5 km². The Game Reserve was gazetted to its present status of a National Park in 1992.The major problem facing the conservation of the park has been habitat loss or modification due to human population growth. The open woodland, which was once a favoured gorilla habitat, was completely settled and cultivated prior to gazettement, although it is now regenerating. The population of Kisoro district is experiencing deteriorating environmental conditions and some local residents are campaigning against this area. Ironically, the park is the major source of water to the region, which is already a problem due to large-scale destruction of forests. During the dry season, the only water-points for the surrounding communities are within the park, but arrangements have been made to pipe water to areas outside.The reserve was heavily encroached, but the situation was improved when the reserve was gazetted as a National Park. However, some illegal activities continue. These include poaching (especially with wire snares by communities around the park), bamboo-collection (especially young shoots for making baskets), cutting of bamboo poles for building, bee-keeping and honey hunting, livestock-grazing (cattle, goats and sheep), firewood- and water-collection, and agricultural encroachment.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Downloaded from on 24/05/2022.