African Wild Foundation (AWF) will today hand over 27 hectares of land in the outskirts of Volcanoes National Park in the Northern Province, to boost the ongoing effort to expand the habitat of the rare mountain gorillas and other wildlife in the park.
According to Rwanda Development Board (RDB), the 27.8 hectares donated by AWF will be added to the existing 16,000 hectares that is the current size of the park.
The handover will take place Wednesday in Musanze District.
According to AWF, the donation is aimed at “providing adequate space for gorillas and other wildlife in the park to thrive.”
AWF recognizes that if mountain gorillas are going to survive in the long-term, the park must be strategically expanded.
Recognizing the need for additional land, the Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Clare Akamanzi, expressed her appreciation to the organization for the donation.
“Today’s donation to the Volcanoes National Park is a major step in the consolidation of Rwanda’s conservation gains for the benefit of communities today and future generations. Through gorilla conservation and tourism, we are directly benefitting from these wonderful animals.
“Over the last nine years, mountain gorilla conservation and the resulting tourism has brought $107 million to the national coffers,” Akamanzi said in a statement.
In a recent interview with Belise Kariza, Chief Tourism Officer at RDB, she said there has been ongoing plan to expand the gorilla habitat to accommodate the ever-growing number.
“The expansion of Gorilla Habitat project is one of our long term goals and should be a concern for us all. Every Kwita Izina we celebrate new babies implying increase in number of these endangered creatures. To date, the carrying capacity of the Park is limited and that is why this is an urgent and important issue to address,” Belise said.
The size of Volcanoes National Park as of 1958 was 33,870 hectares before it was encroached on by neighbouring population, and it has since decreased by 54 per cent of its original size.
As per an agreement between RDB and AWF, the donated land will be revegetated and no development will take place on the land.
About the Park
Volcanoes National Park was established in 1925. It is Africa’s oldest national park and lies in northwestern Rwanda and borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.
The national park is haven for the rare and endangered mountain gorilla and golden monkeys.
It is home to five of the eight volcanoes of the Virunga Mountains (Karisimbi, Bisoke, Muhabura, Gahinga and Sabyinyo), and spans 160 km2 (16000 hecatres) covered in rainforest and bamboo.
Population trend of mountain gorillas in the Park
Mountain gorillas have recorded a 26.3 per cent increase in the total population since 2003, representing a 3.7 per cent annual growth rate.
- 1959-1960: 400-500 gorillas
- 1971-1973: 260-290 gorillas
- 1976-1978: 252-285 gorillas
- 1981 Census: 242-266 gorillas
- 1986 Census: 252-285 gorillas
- 1989 Census: 324 gorillas
- 2003 Census: 380 gorillas *17 per cent increase since 1989, this represents a 1.15 % annual growth
- 2010 Census: 480 gorillas *26.3 per cent increase in the total population since 2003, this represents a 3.7 per cent annual growth rate