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Rwanda conservation effort to link isolated chimps to distant forest
Date:3/17/2008

Des Moines, Iowa, USA March 18, 2008 A group of some 15 chimpanzees isolated in a pocket of Rwandan rain forest will have a greater range and, thus, greater chances for survival thanks to one of Africas most ambitious forest restoration and ecological research efforts ever. Organizers of the project, named the Rwandan National Conservation Park, said today that a 30-mile (50km) tree corridor will be planted to connect the Gishwati Forest Reserve, the chimpanzees home range, to Nyungwe National Park.

The Rwandan National Conservation Park is a collaborative effort of the Rwandan government; Great Ape Trust of Iowa, a scientific research facility in Des Moines, Iowa; and Earthpark, a national environmental education center proposed for Pella, Iowa. The project in Gishwati was unveiled at the Clinton Global Initiative last fall by Rwanda President H.E. Paul Kagame and Ted Townsend, founder of Great Ape Trust and Earthpark.

This is an ambitious plan, but the Gishwati chimpanzees are on the brink of extinction. Every newly planted tree increases their chance of survival by providing additional food, shelter and security from people, said Dr. Benjamin Beck, director of conservation at Great Ape Trust. If we direct the reforestation southward, there is the additional advantage of bringing them closer to a larger, more secure population in the Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda and the Kibira National Park in Rwanda, with a combined total of about 800 chimpanzees. Once they make contact, the Gishwati chimpanzees will enjoy a wider pool of prospective mates, and thus can avoid inbreeding.

The Gishwati Forest, in Rwandas Western Province, was deforested in the 1980s by agricultural development and in the 1990s during the resettlement of people following the civil war and genocide. Human encroachment, deforestation, grazing and the introduction of small-scale farming resulted in extensive soil erosion, flooding, landslides and reduced water q
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Contact: Al Setka
asetka@greatapetrust.org
515-243-3580
Great Ape Trust of Iowa
Source:Eurekalert

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