Rwanda: why the fight against illegal logging in national parks is not yet over
Measures to tackle illegal logging and poaching in Rwanda’s national parks are expected to remain swift as cases are still on record, conservation experts said.
The Volcanoes National Park with an area of 160 km² in the north-west of Rwanda, the Nyungwe National Park with an area of 1,019 km² in the south-west of Rwanda and the Akagera National Park with an area of 1,084 km² in eastern Rwanda and the Gishwati-Mukura National Park with an area of 35.6 km2 are the protected areas of Rwanda which cover approximately 10 percent of the country’s surface area.
At the recent conference of a group of forest conservation experts convened by the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC) in Kigali, Rwanda’s protected areas highlighted the gains in terms of conservation.
COMIFAC aims for the conservation and sustainable management of Central African forests in the countries of Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, from São Tomé and Príncipe and from Chad.
Rwanda’s protected forests are part of the Central African region which currently has 206 protected areas covering a total of 799,000 km².
Rwanda has about 724,695 hectares of forest, or about 30.4 percent of the country.
Natural forests account for 57 percent of the total forest cover and are mainly found in Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park, Volcanoes National Park and Gishwati-Makura National Park.
Despite these achievements, experts recognize that Central African countries still face many threats to nature conservation, including massive poaching of flagship wildlife such as large mammals, illegal logging. , abusive and informal logging for energy needs and land use conflicts.
In an interview with Prosper Uwingeli, the chief park ranger of Volcanoes National Park, he said cases of illegal logging and poaching still pose threats to the park.
“We are still recording cases of poaching and illegal logging in the park although it is not at an alarming rate. However, poachers have changed their tactics compared to previous years,” he said.
He said people are being arrested for cutting bamboo which they use for timber.
“We are also arresting people with traps to kill buffaloes and kobs. Despite some cases of poaching and logging, this shows that there is still a path and a need for conservation awareness,” a- he declared.
He said the traps were also dangerous for other animals such as the park’s gorillas, although they target those for meat.
“We are happy, however, that no poaching is aimed at killing gorillas. We need to work with the communities around the park to step up the fight against poaching and illegal logging. We work with cooperatives in the fight, some of whom were once poachers. ,” he said.
The park’s contribution to tourism revenues
In 2019, Volcano National Park accounted for 91.7% or $ 26 million of the $ 28.5 million in revenue generated by three parks with the great contribution of Gorilla trekking.
Despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on income, he said, the park is recovering.
“Since May, we have registered half of the visitors we received before the pandemic. This means that there is a rapid recovery, but at the same time, we are stepping up the fight against poachers and illegal logging in the park.” , did he declare.
The revenue sharing program, compensation fund and jobs obtained through conservation projects are the main programs that have provided alternative sources of income to communities and thus put an end to poaching and illegal logging.
Locals are also employed as vets, researchers, trackers, porters and guides, while others work in lodges and safari camps.
At least 10 percent of tourism revenue is shared with the communities living around the parks.
As of 2018, the program had shared $ 5.3 million, supporting 690 community projects.
In 2019, $ 2.85 million was shared with the community.
From 2016 to 2018, approximately $ 590,000 was paid out as compensation from the Special Guarantee Fund to insure people against damage caused by wild animals to crops, killed livestock, as well as those injured or killed.
Poaching in other parks
Poaching is also still a threat to Nyungwe and Akagera National Park.
Two months ago, the national police arrested four men for poaching.
In February, police also arrested two of four hunters who endangered wildlife in Akagera National Park.
An informal network of community members, including former poachers, who provide information to the Akagera National Park security team has since strengthened the internal response to potential poachers before they even enter. within the boundaries of the park.
Harmonization in wildlife conservation
Forest conservation experts cited significant progress in implementing a roadmap to harmonize policies and legislation on protected areas and wildlife management in the Central African region.
Two studies, namely the study on the harmonization and improvement of legislative and institutional frameworks relating to the management of wildlife and protected areas in the 10 member countries of COMIFAC and the study on the opportunities for labeling areas protected in Central Africa have been presented recently.
“The forests of the Congo Basin are on the way to becoming the first green lung of planet earth after the strong deforestation recorded in recent years in the Amazon basin,” said Chouaibou Nchoutpouen, Deputy Executive Secretary of COMIFAC.
He stressed that their role in carbon storage is essential to reduce global warming.
The Rwandan Minister of the Environment, Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya stressed that the studies will not only improve the legislation but also mobilize resources for the management of protected areas.
Ildephonse Kambogo, head of the product development division at the Rwanda Development Board, said the public-private partnership has been identified as the best model for conserving protected areas while generating income, adding that the Rwandan parliament has just come from. adopt a law on the conservation of biodiversity and wildlife which should stimulate efforts. in conservation and the fight against poaching.