Akagera National Park, Eastern Rwanda: How deciding led to reviving and thriving.


National Geographic recently published an article about the incredible revival of Akagera National Park. Written by independent journalist and filmmaker Benedict Moran and penned in partnership with the Wyss Campaign for Nature, the article illustrates what is possible when there is a will to make things happen.

Like Mozambique, Angola and other countries around the globe that have endured conflict, Rwanda has had her share of suffering, death and disruption. While the 1994 Rwandan genocide had an enormous impact on the people and social fibre of the country, their natural environment and wildlife also suffered at the hands of humans. Between poaching, being casualties of war, and being displaced in favour of farmlands, lions, rhinos and many other of Africa’s iconic species were all but decimated within Akagera and beyond her borders.

Moran explains that despite being declared a National Park in 1934, Akagera National Park was reduced by two thirds when land was allocated as farmland for returning exiled Rwandans. And while these rebuilding efforts may have been admirable in terms of mending human relations, they served to further disrupt Akagera and other surrounding conservancies. Inevitably, placing farmlands alongside areas where wildlife roam, leads to human-wildlife conflict. Wild animals, oblivious to the value of the spoils they plunder, often fall victim to vengeful killings. Accordingly, numbers of all wildlife species in the region increasingly fell, and those not killed to eliminate threats to crops and livestock were poached for bushmeat.

But 2009, in collaboration with African Parks, a NPO, the Rwandan Development Board decided to take action and launched a conservation program that culminated in the return of not only the Big Five, but also other populations of indigenous wildlife. In recognising the value of Akagera and other conservancies as a national resource, they slowly but surely revived the Park so that it now stands as a viable tourism destination that can ultimately be placed on equal footing with Volcanoes National Park, Nyungwe Forest and neighbouring game parks in Kenya and Tanzania.

Along with establishing anti-poaching units, Akagera has taken various measures to reduce human-wildlife conflict. Herding wildlife away from crops, erecting fences and boundaries, and investing in neighbouring communities has done much to help.

Investment in Akagera continues, Moran says, and it continues to be restocked with wildlife from other parks, conservation areas and even zoos. Policy makers continue to foster a culture of appreciation of wildlife, demonstrating that conservation and the resulting increase in tourism leads to benefits for everyone.

Moran’s piece on the revival of Akagera National Park illustrates how all solutions begin with actions, and all actions start with decisions. But first, you need to recognise the holistic value of the outcome.

Read the full article.

The Wyss Campaign for Nature’s goal is to attain protection for 30 percent of the planet by 2030.


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