Destination Kivu Belt

Animal and plants of Gishwati Forest

Animals and plants of Gishwati Forest

Gishwati Forest is a montane rainforest of high elevation of between 2000- and 3000-meters altitude. Even though these forests are located right on the equator, the elevation keeps the temperature at a pleasant level throughout the year with an average annual rainfall of around 2000 mm. The temperature is more or less around 25°C during the entire year and rarely drops below 15°C at night. The combination of abundant rainfall, sunlight and pleasant temperatures makes Gishwati Forest one of the most diverse habitats in Africa in terms of animal and plant species.

 Guide book of Gishwati Forest created by the Forest of Hope in partnership with RDB and Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund

Eastern Chimpanzee

The most known animal in Gishwati Forest is the chimpanzee. The type of chimpanzee in Gishwati Forest is the Eastern Chimpanzee. The Eastern chimpanzee is a subspecies of chimpanzee found in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Uganda. There is also a small population left in Burundi. In Rwanda it can be found in Nyungwe Forest and Gishwati Forest. The eastern chimpanzee is smaller than other recognized subspecies of chimpanzees, male and female are also much more similar in size.

Chimpanzees are very strong and robust primates and a close look at them easily give away that they are our closest relatives. Chimpanzees live in large family groups in dense tropical forests where they spend most of their times foraging for edible fruits and shoots. Unlike monkeys, chimpanzees are too heavy to swing themselves entirely through the tree canopy and spend a considerable amount of time on the ground. They are good climbers and will easily climb trees in search of fruits, or to evade danger. Chimpanzees also sleep in beds or nests that they prepare from leaves and branches high up in a suitable tree.

Chimpanzee trekking can be done in Gishwati National Park. Even though the population of chimpanzees are now more than 30 individuals in Gishwati forest, they can be quite elusive and hard to find. Since Gishwati Forest just recently opened to the public the chimpanzees have not been habituated to humans. This means that they are not used to human encounters or that they are used to humans coming near them. Gishwati Forest National park is operated by Wilderness Safaris. All park activities are either organized through the park office located at the entrance to the park along the road from Rubavu, through the Forest of Hope Guest House or directly through Wilderness Safaris. No visit to the park is allowed without a stay at the Forest of Hope Guest House. You can either stay at the campsite or at one of the two recently renovated rooms. If you are travelling on an organized trip with a tour operator they will book and organize everything for you.

Animals of Gishwati Forest
Chimpanzee in Gishwati Forest

Other primates of Gishwati Forest

Apart from the chimpanzee there are three more species of primates in Gishwati Forest. The golden monkey can be found in large groups throughout Gishwati Forest. The golden monkey is a blue and bronze colored primate who live in large groups of up to 50 individuals. They mainly eat bamboo shoots, leaves and fruits. Due to habitat destruction golden monkeys can only be found in a few places and is placed on IUCN Red List as endangered. In Rwanda, Golden Monkeys can be found in Volcanoes National Park, Gishwati Forest and Nyungwe Forest.

Another primate species found in Gishwati Forest is blue monkey. Blue monkeys are similar to golden monkeys but lack the copper-gold color on the back. The blue monkey is found in abundance throughout central and eastern Africa and is not threatened. L’Hoest’s monkey can also be found in Gishwati Forest. This monkey species has a bluish dark coat and is easily distinguished by its white beard. L’Hoest’s monkey is found in Eastern DRC and in the mountain forests of Rwanda and Uganda.

l'hoest's monkey in Gishwati Forest
l'hoest's monkey in Gishwati Forest

Primates species of Gishwati Forest

Eastern Chimpanzee

Large primate and our closest relative. Easily distinguished by its black colored fur and bare face and hands.

Golden Monkey

Golden Monkeys are blue and bronze colored primates living in large groups of up to 50 individuals. They mainly eat bamboo shoots, leaves and fruits. Due to habitat destruction golden monkeys can only be found in a few places and is placed on IUCN Red List as endangered.

Blue Monkey

Blue monkeys are bluish grey in color and can be found in abundance throughout central and eastern Africa. It is not a threatened species.

L’hoest’s Monkey

L’hoest’s Monkeys are similar to the blue monkey but has a more bronze colored back. They are easily distinguished from other species by their white beard.

Serval Cat Gishwati
Serval Cat

Other animal species in Gishwati Forest

Apart from primates there is an abundant animal life in Gishwati Forest. In 2018 a study using camera traps was conducted in Gishwati forest. The aim of the study was to map the abundance of non-primate species in the forest. In the study, several mammals apart from the primates were found to inhabit the forests of Gishwati and Mukura.

African Palm Civet

The African palm civet is a small tree-living civet with short legs. It can be found distributed from Western Africa all the way to Eastern Zimbabwe. It is mostly nocturnal, coming out at night to feed on fruits.

Serval Cat

The largest non-primate found in Gishwati Forest is the serval cat. The serval cat is a cat with long legs and a short tail which inhabits a range of different habitats ranging from rainforests to savanna where it survives as long as it is protected. This cat has a golden yellow fur speckled with dots and stripes. It feeds mainly on smaller rodents and birds.

Side Striped Jackal

The side striped jackal can be found in Gishwati Forest National Park. The side striped jackal is a canine species normally found living in savannah grasslands. These small dog-like animals eat small rodents and already dead larger animals.

Carruther’s mountain squirrel

Carruther’s mountain squirrel can be found within Gishwati Forest. This squirrel is a tree living rodent species found at hi elevation throughout DRC, Uganda and Rwanda. This squirrel is has a brownish-green fur and feeds mostly on nuts and fruits.

Giant Pouched rat

The giant pouched rat is amongst the largest rat species in the world. It is brownish-grey and lives on the ground where it forages for nuts and fruits.  It is abundant throughout Gishwati Forest National Park even though it can be hard to spot.

Red River hog or Push Pig

The bush pig or red river hog is a large red-colored hog with a white stripe running down its back. It is mainly active during the day where it forages in the undergrowth

Southern tree hyrax

Southern tree hyrax is a small brown animal that live in the treetops. Even though it looks like a rodent, its closest relative is the elephant. At is most active at night when it can be heard to let out a ghostly cry across the forest.

Black Fronted Duiker

The black-fronted duiker is a small antelope found across Central and Eastern Africa. The red fronted duiker is small and lives on the forest floor. It is red in color but gets its name from the black coloration of its head and front legs.

Regal Sunbird Gishwati Forest
Regal Sunbird Gishwati Forest

Contact Information and Booking

Gishwati Mukura National Park is managed through a collaboration of Rwanda Development Board, the organization Forest of Hope and Wilderness SafarisAll activities in and around Gishwati Forest are organized through Forest of Hope Association. Visits to the park are normally combined with a stay at the Forest of Hope Guest House

Booking of park entrance, Forest of Hope Guest House and community-based experiences:

RDB Park Office, general information only, no booking:

  •  Chief Park Warden Gishwati-Mukura National Park, +250788449008

Good to know:

  • All visits to the park are organized through the Forest Of Hope Association
  • All Gishwati hikes are classified as hiking in protected area/National Park
  • Animals live in their natural habitat Guideand permit are needed

Many of the websites and contacts about Gishwati Forest online are not official park websites and the information is sometimes wrong and not reliable

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