The isolated chimpanzee population in Gishwati Forest, already a protected forest area and tipped to become Rwanda’s next national park, was not too long ago barely a dozen strong and showed all the hallmarks of a declining population.
Rwanda’s determined efforts to save her forests and the declared government policy goal to increase forest cover by 2020 to thirty percent of the total area of the country – which includes to close the gaps between Gishwati and other forests, from Lake Kivu to Nyungwe Forest – however has brought added protection for the primates in its wake too.
Set to become Rwanda’s next tourism diversification target, Gishwati is home to birds, mammals and in particular primates too, and recent reports confirmed that the troop of initially a dozen has now at least 7 confirmed ‘babies’ amongst them, which brought their overall number to the 20 threshold. Presently research is being carried out, on game populations in the forest but it is understood that plans are advancing to model tourism activities along the example set by Nyungwe, create trails and open hiking tracks, including the possible establishment of a second ‘canopy walk’, much encouraged and awaited by the country’s tourism industry considering the success of the Nyungwe facilities which saw visitor numbers more than double since the ‘canopy walk’ was opened in 2010.
Eco tourism is seen as a way to in particular get local populations involved by offering guide services, home stays and see income from tourism reach those most in need, in the process creating valuable allies in the ongoing challenges of conservation vis a vis over exploitation of forest resources, encroachment and poaching.
Compiled by Jackie