The land-locked country of Rwanda has a widely-varied topography consisting of volcanic mountains, rolling plains, swamps, savannah, and many lakes. These habitats support many different kinds of animal life. The climate is classified as that of a temperate tropical highland due to its altitude and alternating wet and dry seasons.
Perhaps the most diverse wildlife is the native bird population which consists of 670 species of birds. Twenty-six of the bird species are endemic to the western part of Africa's Great Rift Valley, an enormous trench that includes Lake Victoria and reaches into Rwanda.
Much of Rwanda's biodiversity is concentrated into the three national parks which have been designated as conservation areas. Although Nyungwe Forest has numerous amphibian, mammal, bird, and reptile species, it is best known for its thirteen different species of monkeys. One quarter of the continent's monkey species are represented there.
Volcanoes National Park, carpeted in rainforest vegetation and bamboo groves, is a haven for the Mountain Gorilla
. This park is where naturalist Diane Fossey studied these great apes. Her life and work was portrayed in the Hollywood movie 'Gorillas in the Mist.' Near the research center where she spent nearly twenty years studying the gorillas lays her grave.
Visit the Akagera National Park and you might see Topis prancing and locking their horns together. A Topi is a species of antelope with a dark coat and a distinctive hump above the shoulder. Their slightly curved horns are ringed, but thicker and shorter than a gazelle's horns.
Sadly, some of this nation's wildlife has suffered as result of political turmoil. Human refugees have at times occupied conservation areas, temporarily or permanently displacing animals from wildlife refuges.