Des Moines, Iowa, USA January 15, 2008 The Rwandan government, Great Ape Trust of Iowa and Earthpark have announced that the Gishwati Forest Reserve is the future site of the Rwanda National Conservation Park, setting into motion one of Africas most ambitious forest restoration and ecological research efforts ever. The selection of Gishwati as the location for Rwandas first national conservation park comes less than three months after the project was unveiled at the Clinton Global Initiative by Rwanda President H.E. Paul Kagame and Ted Townsend, founder of Great Ape Trust and Earthpark.
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 quality as well as the isolation of a small population of chimpanzees.
A team from Great Ape Trust and Earthpark toured the Gishwati region this month, hosted by representatives from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) and Rwanda National Forestry Authority (NAFA).
This was the first step in what will be a very long but powerful journey. What weve learned about Gishwati has given us an even bigger vision of what can be accomplished in Rwanda, Townsend said. Its a signature moment to participate in this conservation effort that is new and beyond anything attempted before.
In addition to tours of Gishwati, Townsend and Dr. Benjamin Beck, director of conservation at Great Ape Trust, met with President Kagame and Patricia Hajabakiga, Minister of Lands, Environment, Forestry, Water and Mines (MINITERE).
The significance of this project is twofold the restoration of forests and biodiversity in Gishwati and the improved livelihood of those people living in the region, Minist
|Contact: Al Setka|
Great Ape Trust of Iowa