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The Rwenzori Mountains: Africa’s Mountains of the Moon, Part 1 of 2

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At the heart of incredible Africa lies a mountain range of incomparable beauty, rising from the sprawling wild of the equatorial continental interior. The Rwenzori Mountains are within the Albertine-Rift Valley and include the Rwenzori Mountains National Park in southwestern Uganda and Virunga National Park in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are the highest range in Africa, and home to the continent’s fifth-tallest peak, Mount Stanley, at 5,109 meters (16,762 feet).

Ancient Greek geographers were always curious about the source of the Nile, and a number of expeditions failed to find the source. In the 19th century, some European expeditions favored Lake Victoria as the headwaters of the Nile, but since then it has been deduced scientifically that the Rwenzori Mountains are indeed the most permanent and highest source of the Nile River.

The Rwenzori Mountains National Park was established by the Ugandan Government in 1991 to ensure the mountainous region’s ongoing protection by law and to monitor the numerous vulnerable and endangered species that live within the area. The Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, borders the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Virunga National Park holds the distinction of being Africa’s first National Park, initially established in 1925.

The Virunga National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and the Rwenzori Mountains were also listed by UNESCO in 1994. Both these parks are extraordinary not only for their spectacular scenery, but also for the rich abundance of endemic flora and large number of rare fauna species found in this unique mountainous region. The foothills of Rwenzori are home to populations of elephants, chimpanzees, and monkeys. The Rwenzori’s otter shrew, leopard, and red duiker, which is a type of antelope, are counted amongst the park’s endemic mammal species, as are several species of highly endangered rodents and shrews. Co-existing with the 70 species of mammals that live within the park are 217 species of birds, several of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift area.

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