In a move to improve Rwanda’s parks management capacity and ensuring the sovereignty of the national parks, Rwanda Development Board launched a program which addresses the key capacity needs in law enforcement and preservation of parks. Under this initiative 120 rangers have undergone paramilitary training equipping them to serve as law enforcement and deterrent for illegal activities in Rwanda’s national parks.
The wildlife protection initiative seeks to actively eradicate illegal activities in Rwanda’s national parks, following a three-fold approach: the strengthening of institutional capacity at RDB; the engagement of key stakeholders in promoting awareness and implementation of legal instruments; and the strengthening of trans-boundary collaboration.
Recruitment and training of park rangers was identified as a key component to build up institutional capacity of rangers of the national parks. Having completed rigorous training, the graduates are entering the field with enhanced knowledge and skills which will help them to improve systems and infrastructure for better patrolling, investigating thus alleviating wildlife crimes.
Overall, illegal activities in Rwanda’s national parks tend to be related to subsistence needs – snare traps, bamboo cutting, artisanal mining, honey harvesting. Due to the high human population density, poverty, the collective impact of these illegal activities has affected population numbers of many species including predators, antelopes, and elephants and other species found on which the tourism industry and Rwandan economy greatly depend upon.
“RDB has initiated series of interventions such as tourism revenue sharing whereby 5% of total revenues generated by the national parks goes back to support the communities in increasing their wealth,” said RDB CEO Francis Gatare. “There is also the compensation of the damages caused by wildlife and equipping staff by building the capacity in different areas such as law enforcement.”
“We believe that with all these programs, we shall ultimately contribute to a reversal in the trend thus decreasing illegal activities within the protected areas,” Gatare added. “RDB shall continue working closely with its trans-boundary stakeholders to ensure that cross-border illegal activities are prevented and therefore reduced due to enhanced and coordinated efforts.”
Other milestone activities include the 110 km electrical fence on the western boundary of Akagera National Park raised to contain the human-wildlife conflict along the boundary and the acquisition of 8 specially trained dogs through a Howard Buffet Foundation donation.