History Of Wildlife In Rwanda
Until relatively recently in human history, people existed as nomadic hunter-gatherers. They used animals primarily as a source of food and also for raw materials that could be used for making tools and clothes. By today’s standards, hunter-gatherers were equipped with rudimentary weapons, but they still had a major impact on the numbers of some species, and without doubt the extinctions that occurred in the earth, are mainly caused by the human’s involvement. In less than a millennium, two-thirds of the continent’s large mammal species disappeared.
In Rwanda the same problems occurred and until now the country continues saving wildlife for future generations and there are positive results from its efforts in this domain.
Effectively, managed protected areas are a critical tool for safeguarding biodiversity.
Rwanda’s five protected areas (covering approximately 8.9% of the country) are:
Volcanoes National Park, first gazetted in 1925, today, has an area of 160 km² in north-west Rwanda
Akagera National Park, established in 1934, has an area of approximately 1,084 km² in eastern Rwanda
Nyungwe National Park, established in 2005, has an area of approximately 1,019 km² in south-west Rwanda
Gishwati-Mukura National Park gazetted in 2016, with an area of 35.6 km2 in 2020, Gishwati-Mukura has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
Rugezi-Burera-Ruhondo, a Ramsar site, was designated in 2005, with an area of 67,35 km2
The natural ecosystems of the country comprise mainly forests, savanna, lakes, rivers, and marshes. They have biodiversity adapted to each environment. These ecosystems contain important protected areas, which shelter a natural heritage of national and international importance.
In order to preserve the wildlife for future in Rwanda, much has been done, including the restoration of some species due to human activities. Down here, are typical examples:
Extinction of forest buffalos in Nyungwe National Park
Through the poor management and destroying natural habitat, all forest buffaloes (Syncerus caffer nanus) have been killed and become extinct in Nyungwe National Park. The last seen was in 1974 through illegal human activities, including poaching, demographic pressure, and habitat loss
Extinction of African elephants in Nyungwe National Park
The last live African elephant (Loxodonta a. African) in Akagera national park was observed in 2000. Some elephants died through the physical traits of the park, including Kamiranzovu swamps and poaching. The absence of the elephants in Nyungwe National Park created the multiplication of unwanted plant species called Selicostachys scandens.
Translocation of eastern black rhino from Tanzania to Akagera NP in 1958
In 1958, six Eastern black rhinos were captured to be brought to Akagera NP. Two males and four females were prepared to have a new habitat in the country of thousand hills or Singapore of Africa. So, his number increased very well, but humans always like to change nature as they want. All rhinos have been killed to zero number; so, reintroduction was needed to be implemented as it was planned to be done.
Translocation of African elephants from Bugesera to Akagera NP in 1975
The high demographic pressure of the population in the Bicumbi and Gashora districts created a serious elephant’s killing. Based on the human-wildlife conflict between elephants and people, 1975 was a year of tears for 26 young elephants were captured in bomas in Gashora commune (today Bugesera district) and Bicumbi commune (Rwamagana district today). More than 100 adult elephants were shot and killed by humans in the elephant’s operation conducted in two districts cited above. Two bomas were constructed to receive orphans this was the beginning of wildlife orphanage for a short time in Rwanda.
Translocation of Giraffes from Masai-Mara national park to Akagera NP in 1986
1986 was a joyful year for all Rwandese to receive for first time six giraffes form Masai-Mara national park as a gift offered by the government of Kenya, and today are increasing in number in Akagera national park.
Reintroduction of lions from South Africa to Akagera NP in 2015 and 2017
After being extirpated by the local community surrounding Akagera national park, in 2015, seven lions brought in Rwanda from South Africa to be in Akagera national park as one of the big five and help in the ecosystem balance park biodiversity. In 2017 two added lions arrived in Akagera NP to complete others and to increase their number. At the end of 2020, the number of them in Akagera National Park was around 40 free individuals with healthiness and safety.
Reintroduction of Eastern black Rhinos and White Rhinos from South Africa and Europe to Akagera NP, in 2017 and 2019
To keep the ecological balance of wildlife in Akagera national park, in 2017, eighteen eastern black rhinos have been reintroduced from South Africa in collaboration with the Rwanda development board and African parks network. In 2019, five other Eastern black rhinos from Europe in the zoo arrived in Akagera national park. Today Eastern black rhinos are part of Akagera NP big five. In 2022, thirty White rhinos were introduced in Akagera national park, but they used also to exist in the east of Rwanda, notably in what is now the Akagera National Park.
While some of the aforementioned animals are being reclaimed, there are still some that are extinct as wild dogs, as well as some that are still rare such as African polecats, Honey badgers, Aardvarks, Hyraxes and others, due to the serious degradation to their natural habitat and lack of their daily food. All of these animals belonging to different species, have been constantly disturbed by anthropologic activities.
All of this has been achieved in collaboration with wildlife conservation organizations and the Rwandan government. Today we can cite the African parks network (APN) in partnership with Rwanda Development Board (RDB), which started in 2010.
In the volcanoes National park, mountain gorillas, up to now are well conserved, after a thoughtful fight made by heroic people as Dianey fossey and others including government of Rwanda. Since many years ago, different non-profit organizations like Karisoke research center, International Gorilla conservation program, Gorilla Doctors, etc., made their efforts for sustainable conservation of this park and protecting different species available here. Apart from Gorillas protection, the Golden monkeys, different species of birds, and other species and their natural habitat, are all protected for present and future generations.
Nyungwe national park had many buffalos and elephants, but all of them are absents through natural causes and poaching. This park, got a big problem of illegal mining in which, many species of living forms died through the destruction of their habitat and other needs. Nyungwe national park today is well conserved in public-private partnership where African parks Network and Rwanda Development Board (RDB), formed Nyungwe Management Company for sustainable management of the park from 2020.
Except national parks, wildlife is also available in the countryside, but are threatened by population through intensive competition of land use, especially agriculture activities and habitations.
So together as one, let us contribute in sustainable conservation of our planet, including Rwanda wildlife for today, tomorrow and forever.
– Burnie, David. “Animal.” Microsoft® Student 2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.
– RWCE strategic plan, 2021.