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The two largest animals present in Volcanoes National Park and in the Virunga Forest are the elephant and buffalo. Both are of the forest types (Forest elephant and forest buffalo, and are somewhat smaller than their cousins living in the open plains or bush land. Despite their massive sizes, these herbivorous mammals can be disappointingly elusive and will usually escape away in the dense vegetation long before visitors can spot them. It is very easy however to know whether these animals are around, as they live  deep prints and massive piles of dung behind.

The current population of the forest elephant in the Virunga Forest is not known. It is certain that it has drastically reduced during the last few decades, due to loss of habitat and continuous poaching in the Congolese part of the forest.

Current estimates (or more accurately guesstimates) vary between 20 and  120 individuals. Elephants tend to spend much more time on the Congolese side of the Virunga, where the forest is still large, but many will typically cross the border and enter the Volcanoes National Park during the long dry season, when they can find better food resources at the higher elevation on the Rwandan side. Elephants in the park live in small family units, but adult males tend to be much more solitary.

Forest Buffaloes are much more numerous in the Virunga forest. Estimates  made by Karisoke Research Centre in Volcanoes National Park in 2009 put the  current population at around 150 animals.

Just like elephants, buffaloes live in small family units, usually of 3 to 6 animals, while adult males are solitary or join to form small and rather loose  bachelor units. They can be encountered in most forest types in Volcanoes National Park,  but they are also known to visit higher areas, prints and dung have been found at the summit of Visoke. Buffaloes especially like the dense  bushy habitats and open clearings in the forest, where they can find abundant  food.

Particularly during the dry season, buffaloes often leave the forest at night to wander in cultivated fields and feed on maize or beans. This is why the park’s administration has erected a stonewall along the forest edge and dug deep trenches along the parks boundary in the areas where marauding buffaloes are most frequent.

Elephants and Buffaloes are most common in the forest habitats at the lower elevations of the park. Both species can quickly become aggressive and extremely dangerous if they feel threatened or are frightened. They  are  unpredictable  animals  that  should  at  all  times  be  considered  with  respect.