Volcanoes National Park (French: Parc National des Volcans) lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Gazetted in 1925, the national park is home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains.
Altitudes in the park vary between 2400-4500m, which is covered in mostly in rainforest and bamboo, although there is also open grassland, meadows, swamps and small lakes. Although best known for the mountain gorilla, there are other animals in the national park including golden monkey, black-fronted duiker, buffalo, hyena and bushbuck. There are 178 recorded bird species, with at least 13 species endemic to Virunga.
Originally intended to protect the gorillas from poachers, it was the very first National Park to be created in Africa. It originally covered area within the Congo also, but in 1960 the park was split into two, some of it cleared for agriculture and the rest was maintained as a conservation and tourist area.
In 1967, American naturalist Dian Fossey (of ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ fame) moved to the park to carry out her gorilla research where she subsequently set up the Karisoke Research Centre. She is largely credited with saving the gorillas from extinction by bringing their plight to the attention of the international community. In 1985, she was murdered by unknown assailants, but believed to be the poachers she had spent her life fighting against.
Due to the Rwandan Civil War, all tourism and conservation activities were abandoned between 1992-1999.