Author Archives: Paula

Protected Area Managers Learn Lessons From Animals

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Hippos in Ishasha River (btn DRC and Uganda)

Virunga National Park is one of the most famous and rich parks in Africa when you look at its biodiversity. It’s inhabitants are 196 species of large mammals and some of them are only found the Central Albertine Rift (where Virunga is part of the region), 706 species of birds and 106 reptiles, etc.
As part of the region, Virunga NP which is located in the Eastern part of the DRC neighbours mainly five (5) national parks in Uganda and Rwanda.
Because of its continuous nature, it’s absolutely important that managers open their doors to their neighbours in order to work hand in hand to protect this biodiversity which is shared between countries.


The trans-boundary mechanism is a process where protected area authorities agree to work together to tackle regional-conservation related problems. E.g.: By law, rangers from one country are not allowed to cross the border with guns while the wildlife under their control is moving freely! Then poachers as smugglers were using different routes to cross from one side to another knowing that rangers could not break the law. They could be living in Uganda and poach in DRC and vice versa.

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Managers have to work together not to minimize or break the law but to develop strategies which are compatible with the law. Managers have agreed to carry on coordinated patrols where rangers from one side are patrolling on their side at the same time and place the other side is doing the same.

To enable this work on going, there is need of field equipment such as tents, raincoats, GPS units, batteries, etc. and ranger rations to enable them to cover long distances where they spend 3 to 5 days.

Coordinated patrols, as field surveillance can not perform all the work needed to reduce illegal activities thus there is need of information gathering and sharing between managers. Most of the wildlife products are trafficked under panya panya roads (smuggling ways) from one country to another.

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Confiscated items under intelligence

The smugglers are not crossing boarders and they fear security and custom services as they know most of these products are not allowed for sale or there are several requirements to fulfill and they may not manage.

Managers have created intelligence networks from the surrounding villages up to the regional wardens’ forum and institutions to collect and use information gathered by local informers. In order to get this activity ongoing there is need of more supports to local informers and wardens by providing them communication equipments such as telephone and airtime.

Conservation is a worldwide interest as it contributes to the life of the world. Then it becomes difficult to handle conservation related activities without involving other stakeholders who are important in the whole process: custom, security services, police, army and magistrate are key stakeholders in the trans-boundary work.

It has been a success having these stakeholders in different forums where they learn about conservation, value and importance of the central Albertine rift region. There is a confident environment which has been established between conservation actors and law enforcement services. This cooperation needs to be strengthened if we want this most important part of world to survive: We have Gorillas, Elephants, Hippopotamus, etc.

The trans-boundary natural resource management has moved from the field level (protected area managers) to the Countries authorities (Heads of conservation institutions and Ministers) to the top level (presidential level – Uganda and DRC).

 

The worlds forgotten paradise – the Albertine Rift

Hello everyone, I am Deo Kujirakwinja, just call me Deo! I work for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on the Virunga Conservation Project.

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I was born and studied in Goma and have been working for Virunga National Park since 2003. I conduct biological surveys, this is me during a recent survey.

First, let me tell you about this amazing Park. Virunga Park is contiguous to 11 protected areas and reserves in Rwanda and Uganda. This is one of the most special places on the planet, its called the Albertine Rift. In a recently conducted by WCS in which I participated, we found a high level of biodiversity in the gallery forests and woodlands, including chimpanzees, bongos, buffalo, elephants, leopards, and several types of monkeys, including a subspecies of colobus monkey found only here. We also recorded a high diversity of birds, reptiles, and amphibians, as well as some plants that may be new to science. In our two-month expedition we discovered 6 new species!!!! These include a bat, a rodent, two shrews and two frogs. I believe that this forest contains some interesting new species because it has been isolated from much of the Congo Forest block for at least 10,000 years. But due to poaching, we hardly saw any large mammals.

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To effectively manage the area, there is need of collaboration with other managers to tackle regional threats. This has been one of my favourite jobs in the northern and eastern Virunga for transboundary resource management collaboration activities which has improved relationship between Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature (ICCN)

My job involves ranger-based monitoring system: in order to get the status of the forest, I have been helping ICCN staff to launch the surveillance data gathering and management system for the whole Park. This involves capacity building actions including field based training for staff involved in Ranger-based monitoring and technical support.

As you all know from the gorilla blog, a consequence of civil war in DRC has been destruction of park infrastructure (ranger post), looting of field equipments and it is a hard work to re-establish the infrastructure and get rangers motivated and equipped.

I’ve been leading biological surveys in Virunga Park and other forests in Eastern DRC. Some people wonder why I do this in such a difficult area. Well, I am committed to contributing to better conservation of wildlife in DRC, particularly in Virunga National Park.