A scientific team managing Gishwati Forest has disclosed that Rwanda’s endangered chimpanzees increased by 54 percent in the last two and half years.
According to a report by Great Ape Trust, in 2008, there were only 13 apes and since then, seven baby chimpanzees were born.
Recently, researchers with the Gishwati Area Conservation Programme (GACP) identified a baby chimpanzee born to Gihozo, a prominent female in the Gishwati ape population.
“Without the hard work of our talented team and the great collaboration with the people of Rwanda, none of these chimpanzees would be alive today," said Dr. Ben Beck, conservation director of Great Ape Trust, a U.S. organization that directs and supports GACP.
The birth brings to 20 the number of identified East African chimpanzees in the Gishwati Forest.
The increase in the chimpanzee population was first reported in March and then August last year.
GACP began its chimpanzee field studies and forest restoration initiative in Rwanda’s Western Province in 2008, by which time, there were only 13 apes.
According to Dr. Beck; “Chimpanzees are reproducing; we only have to provide protection and Mother Nature will rebound. But if we are not able to sustain our work, all will be lost.”
In addition to the expansion of the chimpanzee population, the Gishwati protected area has been enlarged by an impressive 67 percent from 2,190 to 3,665 acres through the demarcation of legal boundaries and the annexation of illegally occupied land.
Dr. Keith Summerville, an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at Drake University in United States has since 2010, worked with his students to assist the Gishwati Area Conservation Program in forest planning and restoration.
According to Summerville, “The birth of this chimpanzee is further evidence that at some crucial point, the future of these apes will depend on connectivity in the surrounding landscape,”
The chimpanzee population in Gishwati comprises six adult males, five adult females, two adolescent females, one adolescent male, one juvenile male and five infants.