Nyungwe wins global environment award

Nyungwe Forest’s Nziza Project was announced winner of the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Globe Award in recognition of its efforts to harmonize tourism, wildlife and the agricultural community in one of Africa’s last surviving rainforests.

canopywalkAt an event held last weekend in London, United Kingdom, the project was lauded as exemplary and which is poised to develop and protect one of the world’s richest and most diverse eco-systems.

The project was initiated by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), “Nyungwe Nziza is a model tourism project for developing countries whose benefits will long outlast this or subsequent governments,” Guild Chair, Roger Bray said, while presenting the award.

It should be noted that Rwanda is one of Africa’s tourism destinations and the major tourist activity being Mountain Gorilla tracking in Volcanoes National Park. Nyungwe forest is a home to 13 primate species that include chimpanzees, colobus monkeys, vervets, blue monkeys, Red-tailed monkeys, etc.

The project also came first during the awards’ Wider World category. The two runners up were Georgia’s Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park and San Antonio Texas’s Morgan’s Wonderland. “We are delighted that the Rwanda Nziza Project was named winner of the prestigious British Guild of Travel Writers’ top Globe Award,” said Clare Akamanzi, the acting CEO of the RDB.

“In Nyungwe, we are able to see a combination of tourism, wildlife, environmental and agriculture development, which adds to beauty as well as create jobs for our people in line with diversification of tourism products. It shows that the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration for sustainable tourism is limitless.”

Akamanzi further noted that Nyungwe, in particular, has received a 44 percent increase of tourists, from 5,755 in 2010 to 8,274 in 2011. She attributed this to the introduction of the canopy walk, which gives tourists an aerial view of the forest from 40 metres above the ground.

Based in South-Western Rwanda, Nyungwe National Park is home to 25 percent of Africa’s primates. Other major award winners included UK’s Cutty Sark Restoration and France’s Loire à Vélo Cycle Trail. Rwanda Tourism continues to be the country’s major cash cow after coffee, tea and mining, with revenues increasing by 11 per cent between January and June this year compared to the same period last year.

The increase is indicated by US$128.3m generated from the sector between January and June compared to US$115.6m generated in the same period last year. So far investment projects worth US$184.1m since January 2012 and are expected to generate over a thousand jobs. The extremely rare mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains continue to be the leading tourism attraction.

There are also Uganda gorilla safaris in Bwindi National Park, south western Uganda. Many tourists from allover the world enjoy combining Uganda and Rwanda gorilla tracking experience!


Mountain gorilla population rise to 880

KAMPALA, Uganda – Despite conflicts and unrests in surrounding regions that potentially threaten mountain gorillas, results from the 2011 census has found that the mountain gorilla population in Uganda has risen. According to the 2011 census conducted in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda, confirms a minimum population of 400 individuals, up from 302 in 2006.

It should be noted this is a critically endangered species, visited by many tourists from allover the world for Uganda and Rwanda gorilla safaris and holiday. The total population of Mountain gorillas in the world now stands at a minimum of 880. The official result was released today (13th Nov 2012) by the Uganda Minister for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities Hon. Maria Mutagamba alongside representatives of the Uganda Wildlife Authority.

gorilla-population-increaseThe increase in the Bwindi gorilla population since the last census is attributed to both population growth and improved censusing techniques of these rare and elusive apes. Despite mountain gorillas being among the most studied of the great apes, these latest results demonstrate the challenges of wildlife censusing. We continue to perfect these methods in order to improve our mountain gorilla conservation efforts in the future, said Craig Sholley, mountain gorilla expert and vice president for philanthropy and marketing at African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).

In this latest census of mountain gorillas in Uganda, teams systematically moved through the impenetrable forests of Bwindi National Park not once, but twice, looking for and documenting mountain gorilla night nests, and collecting fecal samples for genetic analysis. The first sweep was conducted with a small team from February 28 to September. 2, 2011; the second sweep was carried out with multiple teams from September. 10th to November. 3, 2011. With the genetic analysis, scientists were able to determine how many unique groups and individuals were found by the field census teams through both sweeps, in what is referred to as a modified mark recapture method.

In short, both sweeps of Bwindi forest enabled census teams to find more gorillas than a single sweep would have. Furthermore, it is likely that some gorillas were missed by field census teams in the 2006 census of mountain gorillas in Bwindi impenetrable forest. But all signs are that this population of mountain gorillas is indeed growing and this is a great hope for sustainable gorilla tourism development. Many visitors to Africa want to include Uganda gorilla safaris in their holiday packages.

The newly applied methods of censusing give us the clearest image of the status of mountain gorillas in Bwindi National Park that we have yet had,” explained Maryke Gray, a census researcher with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), a coalition of AWF, Fauna and Flora International, and World Wide Fund for Nature. “Even with evolving census methods, the results indicate this population has indeed grown over the last 5 years, and that is according to Augustin Basabose, Virunga Heartland director for AWF and interim director of IGCP,

The mountain gorilla is the only great ape whose population is increasing despite continuous pressure on its habitat. This positive trend is due to the strong collaboration among the three countries where mountain gorillas live and the collective efforts on the ground by park staff, surrounding communities and local government, and non-governmental organizations.”

Mountain gorillas live in social groups and the census results indicate the 400 mountain gorillas in Bwindi Park form 36 distinct social groups and 16 solitary males. Ten of these social groups are habituated to human presence tourist on gorilla safaris or research and included, at the time of the census, 168 mountain gorillas, or 42% of the Bwindi population. Of the 880 mountain gorillas now thought to remain in the world, 400 were confirmed in this Bwindi census and 480 were confirmed by a census in the Virunga Massif in 2010.

While Sarambwe Nature Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a protected area continuous with Bwindi and therefore potential habitat for mountain gorillas, was initially going to be included in the census, it was not possible to do so due to political insecurity in that area.

The 2011 gorilla census in Bwindi forest was conducted by the Uganda Wildlife Authority with support from l’Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). The census was also supported by AWF through IGCP, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Conservation Through Public Health, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, the Institute for Tropical Forest Conservation, and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. 

Great thanks to all partners in the conservation of Mountain gorillas in Africa, including neighboring communities to Bwindi national park (Gorilla habitat) where all gorilla safari activities are conducted.