Sources close to the Rwanda Development Boards Tourism and Conservation Division have confirmed earlier in the week that Gishwati Forest, featured recently in RwandAirs inflight magazine INZOZI, has now been designated as a tourism attraction, confirming suggestions by this correspondent some months ago already that this unique forest could soon join the better known Nyungwe Forest as a national park, which would bring the total number in Rwanda to four.
Close cooperation with leading NGOs has steadily improved the knowledge in recent years about Gishwatis unique features and provided an inventory of flora and fauna helpful to make sound and well informed decisions about the forests future use.
The Iowa based Great Ape Earth Park Trust has been at the forefront of putting Gishwati forward as a candidate for parkship to be bestowed on the ecosystem, but the Rwanda government itself has alongside this earmarked Gishwati for further re-forestation, aimed to close the gaps towards both Nyungwe Forest as well as towards Lake Kivu. In this respect it is worth mentioning that the size of the forest now stands at just under 1.500 hectars, up by almost 2/3 in size from 2008, when the conservation measures were started, a glowing endorsement for Rwanda and an example for much of the region where the trend still goes into the opposite direction.
Just over a dozen chimpanzees, almost cut off from the rest of their kind in Nyungwe, have been found to reside in a section of Gishwati and growing the forests together again would allow them to migrate and interact with other groups, and importantly find fresh DNA injections into a hitherto rather isolated group now prone to inbreeding.
Should Gishwati, as this correspondent expects, become Rwandas fourth national park, it would open the doors to more tourist visitors, who at present on a trial basis are allowed into the park three times a week with guided tours. Although compared to Nyungwe the infrastructure with trails and for instance another canopy walk are not yet there, the intention is to establish such facilities together with a proper visitor centre in coming years. Gishwati, another rough jewel about to be polished up and shown off to the world.