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Volcanic eruption threatens rare chimpanzees in DR Congo

A chimpanzee rests in the grass in Virunga National Park.
A chimpanzee rests in the grass in Virunga National Park.
Photo: African Wildlife Foundation

In the pre-dawn hours on Saturday, rangers at Virunga National Park were awoken by the sound of Mt. Nyamulagira erupting. 

Located 16 miles from the eastern city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park is home to the largest remaining continuous population of chimpanzees in the world.

In addition, the park is home to the endangered mountain gorilla, hippopotamus, leopard and other animals. The gorilla's are said to be safe as they live further east and are not in direct threat from the eruption.

Virunga National Park Director Emmanuel de Merode said that park staff, working in conjunction with civilian and military authorities, have been mobilized and continue to assess the risks and take appropriate action.

At 10,023 feet, Mt. Nyamulagira is the most active volcano in all of Africa. A shield volcano, Nyamulagira is built up by the outpouring of lava

With more than 35 documented eruptions since 1882, this towering volcanic peak poses a constant threat to wildlife through the destruction of habitat and through the displacement of animal groups.

As chimpanzees live in tight-knit family groups, with communities numbering from 10 to 100 members, they are at greater risk of dispersal as a result of natural disasters. Without the protection of the troupe, displaced chimps face a greater risk of predation, by other animals and by human poachers.

To learn more about the amazing chimps of Virunga National Park visit the African Wildlife Foundation.

To see more photos of the chimps and gorillas of Virunga visit National Geographic online.


  • just sayin 5 years ago

    who really cares? they will be eaten by the savages anyway

  • Jodie J 5 years ago

    I care and I believe hundreds of other people would also care about the chimpanzees if they were aware of this problem. I'm going to put this article on my facebook and twitter page. Thanks for doing this article.

  • NP 5 years ago

    I care too! Thank you for sharing this story!

  • Neala 5 years ago

    Anything that harms such a crucial habitat and its residents harms the planet.

    Thank you for letting us know.

  • Ann Garrison 5 years ago

    I'm worried about the people.

  • Erin (DC Travel Examiner) 5 years ago

    How frightening! Seeing chimps in the wild is one of my dreams...

    I've subscribed to your articles and would love for you to do the same. Was in Anchorage a few years ago and loved spending time at the big downtown farmers market.

  • Sheila O'Connor - SF World Travel Examiner 5 years ago

    yes thanks so much for letting us know, btw I typically DO delete vicious personal comments, it's a choice I make. Would you like to muually subscibe I wonder? best wishes.

  • Jill 5 years ago

    Well "just sayin" there are many things that could be said about your post. Unfortunately, you started typing and showed the whole world way more about yourself than I could ever say.
    Living only 30 miles from Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park I have a great love and reverence of all living things. Thank you so much for bringing this story to our attention Annie. It is through efforts such as yours that caring humans can assist our planet before it becomes the decaying ball so popular in science fiction.

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