It’s Rwanda Week here at Ker & Downey. We’re taking an in-depth look at the ins and outs of traveling in Rwanda and the incredible country that has become one of Africa’s greatest success stories. Among its great successes – establishing the Gishwati Forest and Mukura Forest as a joint national park.
The Gishwati Forest was once part of a large system of rain forests that stretched through the middle of Africa, connecting the rain-forests of the Congo and Nyungwe Forest. It was a thriving and rich biodiverse area and a remarkable habitat for wildlife.
After the terrors of the genocide calmed down, the people of Rwanda flocked to the Gishwati Forest region to resettle and rebuild their homes and communities. In the process, much of the region was stripped of its trees to clear land for farming and homes. Cattle ranching and agriculture over the years degraded the land so much that the area saw subsequent soil erosion, landslides, and flooding.
To keep the Gishwati Forest from becoming another casualty of the genocide, the Gishwati Area Conservation Program was formed with the hope of creating a national conservation park to both protect the forest and its population of chimpanzees and restore it.
Just south of the Gishwati Forest lies the Mukura Forest ecosystem. It faced similar deforestation and has been reduced to half its size over the last 50 years.
The dwindling forests caused conservationists to sound the alarm and in September 2015, a law was passed that established joint national park status for the Gishwati and Mukura Forests, creating the Gishwati-Mukura National Park. Besides protecting the established areas of each forest, a buffer zone of trees was created with a long-term plan to reestablish a wildlife corridor connecting the park to Nyungwe Forest. It’s a huge step forward in the conservation of Rwanda’s greatest national treasure and ensures the future of an exceptional habitat. the efforts are set to more than triple the Gishwati-Mukura National Park’s East African Chimpanzee population.
Beyond the chimpanzees, which are a huge draw for tourism to the area, the Gishwati-Mukura National Park is a sanctuary for other primates like Golden Monkeys, Blue Monkeys, and L’Hoest’s Monkeys. Black and White Colobus monkeys have also been spotted by conservationists.
There’s a long way to go before the rain-forests of middle Africa are restored, but with the establishment of the Gishwati-Mukura National Park, Rwanda has taken two giant steps forward in leading the efforts of conservation.