Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda

Nyungwe Forest, Rwanda Photo
©Rick Orlosky

This is the largest block of high-altitude montane forest in East and Central Africa, and one of the most ancient, dating back to before the last Ice Age. Nyungwe Forest is best known for its 13 species of primates, including the chimpanzee, the handsome, white-bearded L’Hoest’s monkey, and large troops of the acrobatic Angola colobus. The forest is also the best ornithological site in Rwanda, harboring nearly 300 bird species. A highlight for bird-watchers is the great blue turaco, a stunning crested bird that calls loudly as it streams from tree to tree.

Along with its biodiversity, Nyungwe is an important source of water and contains many natural resources integral to the country’s large human population.

Fast Facts

  • Rwanda is in one of the most heavily populated areas of Africa. More than 8 million people live in the country, which is about the same size as the state of Vermont.
  • Nyungwe covers 378 square miles, the largest single forest block in East Africa.
  • The southeastern portion of Nyungwe forest is blanketed with bamboo, an important resource.


Nyungwe faces many major threats primarily from the large numbers of people living around the forest, who seek bamboo, honey, timber, and wild animals. Honey-hunters often use fire to smoke bees from the hives, and these fires sometimes spread through the forest. Farms are encroaching on the park boundaries, leading to habitat fragmentation and loss of natural communities. In addition, artisanal miners can be found throughout the forest.

WCS Responds

WCS is working with local communities and leaders to find ways of preserving Nyungwe Forest through tourism development, awareness campaigns, capacity building, and policy development. Thanks in part to these efforts and our work here over the past 20 years, in 2005, the forest was designated the third national park in Rwanda.
WCS and its partner organizations have established a network of moderate hiking trails, a canopy walkway, and an interpretation center, which is the first of its kind in the region.

Wardens and rangers have been trained and six patrol posts have been constructed to maintain control of the forest. WCS has also worked with the Rwandan government to develop a park management plan that determines zoning for conservation, tourism, and sustainable harvesting. Working with the National University of Rwanda and the Agricultural Research Institute, we have developed research collaborations for students and scientists.

Recently, WCS has been facilitating a collaboration between Rwanda and Burundi with the aim of conserving Nyungwe and neighboring Kibira National Park as one landscape. Since the launch of this initiative, a Memorandum of Understanding between Rwanda and Burundi has been ratified.

From the Newsroom

How to Stop Wildlife Poachers May 25, 2012

WCS VP for Species Conservation Liz Bennett details efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade and highlights the urgent need for additional security forces to slow and ultimately reverse the decimation of myriad charismatic species.

Chimp EdenSeptember 22, 2008

WCS facilitates an agreement between Rwanda and Burundi to protect the largest mountain forest block in East Africa—home to chimpanzees, owl-faced monkeys, and other endangered primates.

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