The Virunga National Park (formerly Albert National Park) lies from the Virunga Mountains, to the Rwenzori Mountains, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, bordering Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Rwenzori Mountains National Park in Uganda. Covering it was established in 1925 as Africa's first national park. It was classified as a World Heritage Site in 1979. In later years it has become known for its mountain gorillas, although poaching and the Congo Civil War have seriously damaged its wildlife population. The park is managed by the Congolese National Park Authorities, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN).
The national park covers the western shores of Lake Edward, known for its hippopotamuses (depleted by more than 95 percent in 2006) while elsewhere, marshland, grassland plateau and plains dominate the park. The Ruwenzori Mountains lie on the Ugandan border and rise to alpine meadows and a glacier, while Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira are both active volcanoes with substantial associated lava plains.
Although mountain gorilla are now extremely rare, successful conservation work has secured the remaining populations. In fact, they increased during the years of political upheaval in the region (1994-2004). It is believed that both savanna and forest elephants and chimpanzees can still be found in Virunga, along with Okapi, giraffes, buffaloes and many endemic birds. The neighbouring Mount Hoyo area was managed with the park and is home to a population of Bambuti Pygmy people, caves and waterfalls, but since the civil wars, the park has suffered somewhat. Land invasions and intense poaching have challenged the park authorities to the limit, but most rangers have remained active. Since 1994, about 120 rangers have been killed in the line of duty protecting the park from illegal poaching and land acquisition. Amongst other military activity, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda or FDLR has been using the park as a safe location when they have come under sustained attack, such as Laurent Nkunda's offensives against them in April-May 2007.. Besides poaching and land invasion the intense illegal production of charcoal forms a constant threat to the national park.