A number of events in Rwanda from 1986 through to the aftermath of the Genocide in the mid-1990s had dramatic negative impacts on Gishwati.
All protected areas were impacted, whether through being degazetted and reduced in size, or through illegal use of resources and resultant local extinctions, or simply degradation of habitat.
The protected areas most impacted were the following:
Mukura Forest Reserve: from 20km² to 8km² (60%reduction)
Akagera National Park and Mutara Hunting Area: from 2500km² to 732km² (71% reduction)
Gishwati Forest Reserve: from 280km² to 30km² (89% reduction)
The catastrophic reduction in size of Gishwati led to a number of local large mammal extinctions (elephant, buffalo, bushbuck, various duiker species etc) such that just relict populations of chimpanzee, golden monkey and mountain monkey remain today.
Local NGO efforts prevented further loss and eventually in 2015 Gishwati was gazetted as a national park.
It remains inaccessible to the public but Wilderness Safaris recently signed a contract with the Rwanda Development Board for the exclusive tourism rights to the forest as a means of generating revenue for its management and restoration.
To do this they have partnered with a visionary local grassroots NGO called Forest of Hope Association.
The initial plan is as follows;
Buy 20 hectares pastoral land (no residents) adjacent to the forest in the headwaters of the Gumba River.
Establish indigenous tree nursery, remove alien vegetation and rehabilitate the 20 hectares of land.
Partner with local NGO – Forest of Hope Association – to run affordable tourism (campsite and guesthouse–total 16 pax) that attracts guests interested in a chimpanzee habituation experience.
Use proceeds of this tourism business to cover operational costs of the NGO.
Our $5000.00 contribution will be used for the acquisition of land and for the production of indigenous plants and trees that will be planted on slopes to rehabilitate the additional purchased land.